CMO Secrets with Brian Kardon

InVision CMO Brian Karon spills CMO Secrets on how to adapt your marketing playbook instead of relying on trends and past successes.

cmo in front of dashboard

Welcome to CMO Secrets. This series features genuine insights and advice from today’s exceptional marketing leaders. Some names will be easily recognized and others may be new to you, but every single one will have been hand-picked for their experience and knowledge in the world of startups, technology and marketing. No pretense, jargon or PR spin here. We asked our most burning marketing questions, and they answered. Get their unfiltered thoughts and opinions and find out how these gurus rockstars marketers got to where they are today. 

(Note: This content was previously published on in July 2019 and has been updated for accuracy.) 

We’re excited to welcome Brian Kardon, CMO at InVision, to CMO Secrets! Brian is a results-oriented executive with more than 20 years of experience creating and implementing successful growth strategies ranging from startups to global, billion-dollar organizations. Brian is among the most successful marketing executives in the world of technology. Brian has been was recognized as one of the “50 Most Influential CMOs” (Forbes) and “100 Most Influential Chief Marketing Officers in the World” (Richtopia), as well as one of the “30 Tech Marketing Leaders Changing the Industry” (Synthesio). 

Brian Kardon

Welcome to CMO Secrets Brian! How have you seen technology transform marketing for the better? How about for the worse?

Most of these marketing technologies are incredibly powerful. But sometimes they don’t have sufficient guardrails to prevent marketers from doing bad things — like violating CAN-SPAM and GDPR, or accidentally sending out a campaign that hasn’t been sufficiently proofed and reviewed. Pity the marketer who accidentally sends a weak or misspelled prospecting email to a Board member or customer. But the biggest mistakes happen when teams draw the wrong conclusions from data — bad, wrong or missing data. Often, the mistakes are compounded and made worse when new campaigns and segmentation are based on faulty conclusions. It’s like building a skyscraper on top of a weak foundation.

Have you experienced an a-hah marketing moment at that lead to some kind of breakthrough or improvement?

Most marketing and sales motions are directed at people who are not in-market to buy. When you finally reach these prospects, after a lot of calling and campaigning, you are disappointed that they really have no interest in what you are selling. What if you only engaged with people who are searching for your solution? There are now myriad “signals” in the marketplace that can better identify people who are interested in what you have to say. I am excited to see marketers starting to embrace intent signals — including byting triggers — as a core part of their go-to-market strategy.

You’ve written previously about AI and Digital Assistants. Would you shed some light on the best ways marketing and sales teams can embrace this technology?

It seems that every martech vendor is putting an AI sheen on their products. It’s important to first assess the gaps in your marketing stack and processes. Only then should you start to identify the right solutions for your unique gaps. With thousands of martech solutions out there, it’s important to have a way to quickly disqualify certain solutions. I am fortunate to have a generous network of CMO pals that I use to discuss solutions. I think every marketer needs to have a few mentors and peers to share ideas, challenges and possible solutions. I know that I have saved countless hours and grief by having this network.

Would you tell us about a time when you had to re-charge/reinvent a marketing team?

Marketers who are successful at one company often fail at their next company. You see, success can harden one’s playbook. By that, I mean that when you are successful you believe that your playbook can be applied in any situation. I think it’s important to first understand your market before reaching for a particular playbook. For example, a marketer who succeeded with a playbook of freemium and a high-velocity sales model built on tons on SEM will fail if she applies that same playbook to an enterprise sale with long buying cycles. You need to find the right playbook for your particular situation, not the one that previously worked for you.

How do you approach purchasing new marketing tech?

From my experience, the limiting factor for onboarding new marketing technologies is seldom budget. It is usually the bandwidth of the marketing team — especially marketing operations. How many of us have bought technology that is just sitting around unused? I certainly have. Before we take on a new martech, my team must give me a plan for deployment, configuration and training. We are much more interested in getting the most value from our existing stack rather than bringing on new technologies.

What attitudes or beliefs in marketing need to change?

The sales/marketing divide continues. In many organizations, it has actually gotten worse. The spectrum of alignment and respect between sales and marketing seems to range from “tolerable” to “we don’t speak to each other anymore.” As marketers, we need to better understand our colleagues in sales — by listening to them, joining them on sales calls, visiting customers. We need to understand how marketing can add value to the sales process by observing firsthand how sellers do their jobs.

What advice of your own would you like to pass on to up-and-coming marketers?

The pace of change in business and marketing has never been faster. The enduring skill that will separate the winners from the others will be agility and the ability to continuously learn.

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