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April 02, 2013


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Lisbet Hansen

It's amazing what you can learn when you dare to ask. I have worked in retail for many years and I have always tried to hire staff from all walks of life, younger and older than myself, the greater the diversity the more I learn.
Listening and learning from as many people as possible also makes me a better inbound marketing communicator as it enables me to find a voice and common ground for every person and situation.

David Meerman Scott

Good for you to listen, Lisbet. That was the biggest takeaway for me from Brian's story.


I was part of Brian's marketing team at Eloqua. Over the past several months, most of his direct reports, myself included, have landed lead marketing jobs at Boston's top startups. We all got together recently, and everyone said the same thing: Every single day we appreciate Brian more. We constantly find ourselves asking how Brian would have approached a challenge or realizing, after the fact, why he handled something the way he did. Helluva boss, helluva marketer. But most of all, he's a helluva guy. Thanks for posting this article, David. -Joe


WOW what a great example of leadership and staying at the growing edge of learning! Learning in itself has changed with the digital age, creeping up on most of us in a certain generation while it is just plain air for the young.

Taking the risk to learn all over again can be so freeing. I find with most people trying to do things online that the 'resistance to change' factor is the biggest stumbling block. If we can let go of resistance or see clearly how the old pattern no longer works and why... we open more possibilities. Letting go of the security blanket of past successes is key.

As an example, my colleague and I, in bringing our weekend training seminars online debated the best schedule. We initially thought it HAD TO BE 9-5 for 2-3 consecutive days just like the old days. LOL - who wants to sit in front of a computer for that long? It took a few months to realize that the 'weekend' seminar works best online in 2-3 hour segments.

Love this article. Thanks so much!


Elle Woulfe

Ditto what JC said. I am honored to have worked for Brian during a very special time at Eloqua. He has an elegance to how he handles the challenges that come his way and I always try to emulate his thoughtfulness when assessing business decisions. I often say when asked about Brian that he is a "joy to be around" and I truly mean that. His humor and passion are infectious and I know I'm a better person and a better marketer for the time I got to work with him. - Elle

David Meerman Scott

Joe and Elle - it is a testament to Brian's leadership that you both chose to comment on this post. Thanks so much for offering your perspective.

Carolyn - "Taking the risk to learn all over again can be so freeing." Great quote. You nailed it.

Jorge Miguel Conceição

I feel the same David! All those post Graduate degrees in Marketing that I have means...nothing! I had to reset all my Mkt studies and relearn everything from zero (well, almost)! Your "New Rules" was the 1st step! Since then is non stop learning because things now are changing every day (I'd say every minute!).
Thanks for the sharing!
Jorge C.

Marketing SEO

Though I have over stretched myself across all the social media, but I am still very skeptical about the relevance of each to my E-commerce website.

David Meerman Scott

Thank you Jorge. I too learn every day from the smart people I meet on social media and at the events I speak at.

Dharmesh Shah

What should be noted is that Brian didn't just have this reputation for being thoughtful internally within Eloqua -- he had it externally as well.

Thanks for the interview, David. It's always great to hear personal stories of people who are not only successful, but also humble.

Rebekah Donaldson

First, yes the transformation described is impressive.
Second, the whole narrative is mind bending. Let me repeat back what I think I'm hearing. I want to make sure I'm grasping the basics:
1. Executives at Eloqua, the leader in "cloud-based modern marketing applications" (this is per the About section at Eloqua's website), hired a chief marketing officer with no knowledge of internet marketing.
2. The CMO happened on the insights of Brian and Dharmesh, co-founders of Hubspot, the leader in all-in-one marketing software. Their book became his bible. Brian and Dharmesh's thinking shaped his thinking about marketing.
3. Oracle bought Eloqua this past Fall.

I am truly curious (and NOT implying criticism here) to learn:

How did Eloqua's search committee select an executive with no knowledge of their market niche? I understand the exceptional core skills and thoughtfulness piece. But they expected him to advocate for a paradigm shift, whether or not he picked up the language to express it? I don't understand those expectations.

My mind runs to what-if scenarios. Say he hadn't picked up Brian and Dharmesh's book when he did, and been struck by lightening. What would Eloqua's trajectory have been?

[Disclosure: My firm is a partner of Hubspot. We are a customer too.]

David Meerman Scott

Dharmesh - I agree that personal stories of success are valuable. I've got another coming this week from Raytheon! Stay tuned.

Rebekah - Perhaps Brian Kardon will jump in here. However, I'd like to offer my perspective:

Back in 2007 when my book "The New Rules of Marketing and PR" released in its 1st edition (the 4th is coming in a few months) and a bit later when "Inbound Marketing" came out, the ideas of Web marketing as content creation were REALLY new. There were virtually no CMOs thinking about this approach to marketing. Traditional B2B technology marketing was about analyst relations, trade shows, white papers, email marketing and cold calling - even those companies that sold products related to marketing.

If you looked at Eloqua's description of what they do back in 2007 - 2009, it would not have read the way it does now. Rather it would have talked about things like "marketing automation" which at that time was automating the traditional stuff like email marketing.

It's only been in the past few years that companies like Eloqua actually marketed their products and services using the new rules of marketing.


Jon Ferrara


Excellent interview as always. I especially loved Brian's last quote ""You've got to tell yourself you're a child again and you have to relearn what you’re doing." Such simple wisdom. Always be learning.



Joe Payne

David -- Great post on Brian. He is an exceptional marketing executive and did great work at Eloqua.

Rebekah, I thought you might like to hear from the "search committee" who hired Brian (that committee was me). We set out to build a world-class executive team at Eloqua. Not the best executive team in "marketing" but one of the best in all of technology. In that scenario, domain expertise is much less important than intelligence, leadership, experience, humility, and a demonstrated skill in building teams. Brian was the CMO of Forrester before he had come to Eloqua and had been a critical strategist in Forrester's growth. In his first week at Eloqua he suggested an idea -- a money back guarantee -- that had never been done in software. It became a cornerstone of our customer success orientation over the last 5 years. Had Brian been an "expert" in our space, he never would have suggested it. It was a radical idea. He also went on to build a great team of talented Modern Marketers that helped make Eloqua a household name in marketing. As DMS' blog emphasizes, today Brian IS a domain expert -- that knowledge he has picked up in the last 5 years. He's also a world-class executive (and person); Lattice Engines is fortunate to have him. -- Joe, former CEO, Eloqua

David Meerman Scott

Jon - That simple wisdom is so valuable for all of us, isn't it?!

Joe - Thanks for jumping in! In my time on the Eloqua advisory board I saw firsthand how the team you built was instrumental in growing Eloqua into a powerhouse and leading to a successful IPO and then acquisition by Oracle. That was a testament to the team you built and to Brian's skills as a marketer. It has been a career highlight for me to see the transformation first hand as a (very minor) member of the team you so skillfully built.

Rebekah Donaldson

Ok. Thank you David and Joe for your responses. I will try to contribute a thought or two more here... (Unless I give in to feeling intimidated and run away?!)

Deep breath...

David - yes you're right of course that Eloqua's positioning and offering evolved. Actually evolved isn't the right metaphor - it bloomed due to intelligent design.

The results speak for themselves.

I got the impression from the story that Brian you were surprised to realize a couple of months into the job that he did not have domain expertise. And that the "oh my god" moment was when you happened across Brian and Dharmesh's book. I pictured you browsing in an airport bookstore and picking up a copy. That's why I was curious about Joe's expectations... and Brian's... coming in to Eloqua.

I was trying to think of an analogy re how impressive Brian's accelerated learning was. Brian's challenge was compounded because he was not just marketing a new SaaS he was marketing a new Marketing. Maybe it's like Brian was an accomplished veteran jumbo jet pilot ad Joe picked him to lead a group of special-skills astronauts going to the moon in a spacecraft with a new kind of propulsion system. Brian picked up astronaut skills and knowledge of his spacecraft's specialized propulsion while strapped into the cockpit, and together all of you completed the mission.

I'm now grasping that Joe you knew Brian would have that "oh my god" moment, and react in all the right ways.

The impressions described above plus the company's extraordinary ensuing success of the company are what bent my mind.

Maybe I inferred wrong in one or more ways, earlier.

Thanks to all here for your perspectives.

- RD (@b2bcommunicate)

Rebekah Donaldson

I just typed the above on my phone and some spells etc - pls pardon them (or David feel free to edit them). Thx.

Rebekah Donaldson

Do you think the analogy holds? Thinking of writing elsewhere about this. Thanks.

David Meerman Scott

Rebekah, I do think the analogy is a good one.

What was going through my mind is that Brian has been successful because he is a genuinely curious person who wants to learn. And he's smart. As such he learned quickly and applied what he learned the job. Good for Joe to recognize his talents.

I'm a liberal arts graduate (Kenyon College). I got a great education but did not learn any marketable skills. I never took a business course. And I took only Freshman English & got a "gentleman's C." Yet like Brian, I am curious and have developed skills to learn things quickly. That allowed me to be able to figure out this new marketing thing and write and speak about it.

I suspect that if I had gone to school for something in particular (accounting perhaps) that I would never have gravitated to what I do now.

I hope you do write about it - send me a link when you do.

Rebekah Donaldson

Interesting. Yes I've thought a lot about how my best team members and clients have humility above all, and how valuable that makes them.

I studied analytic philosophy in New York and then California and had no business clue on exit. And if I had it to do over I wouldn't get vocational training either. (For one - and this will make a lot of folks mad - marketing degrees aren't hard enough to earn.)

Ed Gaskin

I was that CMO. Around 2005, 2006, I started hearing more and more about social media marketing, social network marketing,conversational marketing, Inbound marketing, viral marketing etc. I went to hear anyone, anywhere talking about this topic. Watching candidate Obama use social media in 2007 was eye opening as this unknown candidate no one thought could win was using social media to mobilize people and raise phenomenal amounts of money. Books have been written on the topic and companies such as Blue State Digital were formed. It was at that point I came to terms with the fact that Web 2.0 was real and my marketing skills were becoming obsolete.

The shift was much larger than new technologies, e.g. writing ads for smart phones and tablets or using Facebook as a communications media. My skills were honed to be an expert in outbound marketing in a world that was moving toward Inbound. I was focused on reach as in reach, frequency and gross ratings points, and reaching the right segment, in a world that was moving to discovery; discovery through SEO, PPC, affiliate links, and personalized recommendations. The world was moving from monologue to dialogue, from one screen to multiple screens, from developing an annual campaign to Real-Time Marketing and PR. :)

When you do not realize the world has changed you try using old techniques in a new world e.g. Banner ads, pop-ups, interstitial ads, taking over a home page, or sending out digital versions of junk mail (Spam) through e-mail, Twitter or any other channel. I liked Brian’s post because I could identify with it. I did a weekly Webcast called CMO Advantage because I knew other CMOs had a similar challenge. I now blog on marketing innovation at www.marketinginnovation.co. I thought Brian provided five great tips for becoming a modern CMO. Thanks Brian. David, thanks for sharing as I never would have found this.

David Meerman Scott

Ed, Wow - what a great story. I really appreciate you sharing it here. Because you figured out relatively early that things were (beginning) to change, you were able to stay ahead of the wave. Unfortunately, many CMOs are still in denial mode.

Bernie Borges

David, thank you for covering this story about Brian Kardon's transition to a "modern marketer." I appreciate Brian's willingness to be so transparent.

A related issue (in my opinion) is the need for the CEO to embrace the culture needed to empower a CMO to be effective. When a CEO gets it, he or she creates an internal culture that can (and should) knock down roadblocks for the CMO. I'm referring to roadblocks that might impede the CMO's ability to create a social business culture that involves functions such as customer service, sales, product marketing, production, etc.

I believe the most successful CMO is one who is a change agent. The CEO can either set him/her up to succeed or set him/her up to fail.

David Meerman Scott

Hi Bernie - Knowing both Brian and Joe Payne (the CEO at Eloqua who hired Brian) I can say that you're right. Joe created the culture for Brian to succeed.

Minneapolis Marketing

Thanks David for informative share! Marketing strategies going to change everyday. So, we must learn and update it. traditional marketing is no longer the best one for our choice. Is that correct, David?

Andrew Hansen

Great post, David. I had the opportunity to meet Brian a few times while he was at Eloqua and I was at Harte-Hanks. He provides marketers - especially those of us focused on b-to-b - with so many great examples of how to do things right. In my role currently I'm working with a lot of younger, digitally savvy people and, as Brian's example shows, I'm making the most of it by asking questions almost daily whenever anything unfamiliar comes up. I may or may not be a CMO some day, but regardless, Brian's approach is a strategy that pays off with deeper knowledge, stronger collaborative ties and the opportunity to do something new nearly every day.

David Meerman Scott

Good for you Andrew. Keep it up and I wouldn't be surprised if you end up as a CMO soon.

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