In this issue of Ask A CMO, we sat down with Stephanie Broyles, CMO of Adlumin Inc., the developer of a patented, cloud-native Managed Detection and Response (MDR) plus services platform. Stephanie’s career in the cyber security, cloud, and IT marketplace spans nearly 20 years, and she is known for her marketing leadership expertise. She is a founding member of the Cybersecurity Marketing Society and was named one of the “10 Most Powerful Women Leaders in 2021″ by Industry Era Women Leaders Magazine.
Here are the highlights from our conversation with Stephanie.
CT: What are three top things you think contributed most to your rise to CMO?
SB: Quite honestly, it’s just my real market experience and natural path into multiple positions. I started off in engineering as an engineering analyst. I have a background in statistics which led me into product management. I got pulled over to product marketing and then got pulled into doing executive briefings, which then brought me into marketing communications. Next, I became a field evangelist and went out with customers. At a young age, did I say, “I want to be a Chief Marketing Officer”? No. But that trajectory is what got me here. I was also excited to bring my experience to smaller companies as a fractional leader and that led me to my current CMO role.
CT: If you were building a marketing team from scratch, who would be your first three hires?
- Product marketing.
- Product evangelist.
- Good technical writer.
The product evangelist could be a generalist. I believe it’s important to have a non-technical person be able to speak to the product and to develop the story in market. There’s a technical acumen that is needed for building product roadmap, product release capability, and prioritizing what we bring to market first. But you need to have an evangelist – someone who can take the technical speak and develop the story. A content marketer could also fill this role.
CT: What is one skill that you want every marketer on your team to have?
SB: Good writing and flexibility. I had the opportunity to do multiple roles – initially, when I started in engineering, I had no idea I’d end up in marketing. So be flexible, and be open to the opportunity, and be willing to take the risk. If you are asked to do something even if you don’t know how, say you will and figure it out along the way. I think that is a key attribute to someone in marketing. I believe that if you’re not slightly uncomfortable, you’re not your best self, you’re not growing.
CT: What do you think have been the most positive and negative Covid side effects for your marketing team so far?
SB: Positives. Covid forced us into the digital sphere, if you will, because we were no longer in person. There’s nothing like sitting across the table in a live environment because you see more than the neck up and more than the voice. You see how the other person is sitting and have a sense of their disposition, so it’s easier to talk to them and get them comfortable – everything in business about making someone comfortable. So that was the hard part living with Covid – we all started living in these boxes. But on the flip side, Covid forced us to be better. It forced us to be more creative, to think about the trigger points that are going to drive conversion and pipeline. For example, I’m really hot now on snackable videos and snackable podcasts – identifying industry pain points and adding your company name as a way to solve for those problems.
I think working remotely has forced us to be better, smarter, faster. My team can stay remote. I found that things get done faster in a remote environment. Don’t get me wrong, I like to pull together the team in the DC area a minimum of every two weeks and just have us all work together in the office so we can be together and then can do smaller group meetings. And once a quarter, we get together as a whole team. I’ve found that Slack and Teams have replaced walking up and down the aisle. We’ve been able to make it all work for us.
I’m not really proud of this, but I know I’m working a longer day. But my stress level is different, so it doesn’t feel longer. I’m a mom. If something comes up, I can step away to handle it, and I know I can come right back to work. In the office, it takes more reaction time to be able to be there for your family. It takes you away and out of the moment – you can’t be in and out to handle these things and still be effective when you’re in the office the way you can when you are working from home.
Negatives: I can’t think of any bad things. I choose to live life with the glass half full, so I want to see the positive. It took adjusting, of course. But once we got past the adjustment period, it worked.
CT: What’s your favorite “One Day We’ll Laugh About This” marketing disaster story?
SB: Goodness that could be multiples in a week. I just remember being an idiot when I started in a field marketing role. I had started on the commercial side, but this was one of my first times on the government side. A partner decided we needed to do “XYZ” in this state. I spent a ton of money, and we didn’t even have a contract vehicle in that state. Imagine if you will, spending a ton of money in a state where we had no way to close business there. I was younger, but I remember that was one of my biggest blunders. Fortunately, I had an incredibly understanding manager. We signed some net new partners pretty quickly, let’s turn that lemon into lemonade, but boy was that egg on my face.
CT: What’s your marketing superpower?
SB: I’m not the smartest person in the room; I know how to find the smartest people in the room. If I’m the smartest person in the room, I’m in the wrong room. I like to surround myself with people that make me better.
CT: What business/corporate buzz word would you like to eliminate forever?
SB: Bespoke. Everywhere is the word bespoke. So many are using the word, literally putting it in front of anything, not using the term correctly. Bespoke has jumped the shark. I have an ongoing joke with close friends: anytime we see something labeled “bespoke,” we take a picture and send it to each other in a group chat. That’s a word I will never use.
CT: What was the first concert you ever attended? The best?
SB: Coincidentally, I was just talking with my husband about the first concert we ever saw. My first concert was Genesis – it wasn’t even just Phil Collins; it was Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins, the whole gang — I’m showing my age, I’ll admit. My husband and I prioritize seeing anyone who comes close to town now, and we just decided to see Loverboy, Styx, and REO Speedwagon on the day of the show.
Best concert? Oh goodness, I enjoy so many different genres. I’ll tell you whom I was most surprised by…my girls grew up loving Justin Bieber. I was surprised that he was such an amazing performer. Love him! I bought and wore a Belieber sweatshirt after his show. I’ve had the good fortune to see some amazing artists. I can give my top four. The first three are David Bowie, the Grand Illusion Tour of Styx with Dennis DeYoung before they broke up,and of course, Justin Bieber.
The fourth and most memorable overall concert experience was Earth, Wind, and Fire at the California Mid-State Fair in 1989. I was in college, and my roommate worked at the deli that was giving away tickets. She couldn’t enter the drawing, but had stuffed my name in the box. And we won. Coors sponsored it, and we rode in their Silver Bullet party ball carriage. It was pretty much like being driven in a beer can. We had backstage passes, the show was fantastic, and the experience was great.
Editor’s note: we could not find a copy of the Party Ball limousine picture, but we have a fairly good idea what it looks like by its name alone. Special thanks to Stephanie for talking with us – and being a great sport. Not every CMO is willing to share their Engineer-to-Belieber story.
Stay tuned for more Ask A CMO interviews in the future.