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Jeff has spent his more than 30-year career in high tech product management and product marketing, the last decade or so in cybersecurity. Jeff joins Lisa and talks about his approach to building a successful marketing team involves recognizing and leveraging strengths while acknowledging and addressing weaknesses.

He emphasizes the importance of collaboration, both within the team and when working with external agencies. Jeff believes in hiring expertise for specific tactical areas, such as SEO, digital ads, and social media. He values the diversity of skills within a team to create a well-rounded and adaptable marketing approach. Jeff’s practical mindset is grounded in the reality of small startups, where the focus is on tangible results and efficiency rather than getting lost in perfection or trying to excel in every aspect. Learning from others’ mistakes and being transparent about challenges are key principles in his approach to marketing.




Jeff has spent his more than 30-year career in high tech product management and product marketing, the last decade or so in cybersecurity. He currently serves as the VP of Marketing for cyber start-up, a new vulnerability management and remediation platform attacking the primary obstacle to aggressive patching head on (fear of breaking shit). trackd is Jeff’s third start up in a row leading marketing, having been the CMO at Dark Cubed (sold to Celerium) prior to trackd, and the VP of Marketing at Delve (sold to Secureworks) before that. Jeff holds a BS In Aerospace Engineering from the University of Maryland, an MS in Systems Engineering/Technical Management from Johns Hopkins University, and an MBA with a Finance concentration from Seton Hall University.


Lisa 0:00
Jeff, welcome to the agency balance podcast. Thank you so much for joining me today, we have a lot to cover. So we’re gonna jump right into it. But before we get rolling, can you give a quick introduction to our guests here?

Jeff 0:12
Yeah, so it was, first of all, thanks for having me. You know, we’ve known each other for a few years now. And the first time we actually had a chance to do this formally. So yeah, so name’s Jeff Hill been in, believe it or not started my career as an aerospace engineering major university of maryland. So I did some work in that world back in back in quite some time ago, and actually did some design work and some engineering work. And one day, somebody pulled me over and said, you know, what said you could probably make a better marketing guy than you would an engineer. And so that’s kind of how the transition started. Because, you know, I could, I could put the verb after the noun and that kind of stuff, not that many engineers at the time could do that. So spend about 30 years now in product management, Product Marketing, in you know, I’d say all forms of marketing, but not really haven’t really done a lot of PR work, for example, things of that nature, so, so more product, product marketing, product management, that kind of stuff. And I’m currently in my third startup in a row. When I say startup, we’re talking 1020 People kind of startup so the real kind of startup. Last two, we sold successfully in a bit about a year and where I am now company called tract is spelled at tra CK D. So track D are tracked, however you want to pronounce it, it’s fine with us as long as you find some of the And, and we’re in again, the cybersecurity space. So like my last few stars been in cybersecurity now over the last 10 years. And we’re sort of in vulnerability management, which is a very old discipline in cybersecurity, very staid discipline, and we’re doing some things to sort of enliven it, and hopefully, make some real progress innovation in that space where there hasn’t been that much in the past decade or two. So yeah, that’s me in a nutshell. In

Lisa 1:56
a nutshell, yeah. been around the block. And that’s one of the reasons why I really wanted to have you join us because, you know, we talk about balance in every sense of the word. And you’re always so genuine, you’ve fun to work with, we test things we learn, we move really, really fast when we were doing marketing together for dark cubed about a year or so ago. So that’s one of the things I wanted to start with is, tell me a little bit about your path, and what you’ve learned along the way to help you instill that, that balance in everything that you do on a daily basis.

Jeff 2:31
Yeah, so what I’ve found over the years in marketing is it’s, it’s the same as it was in the wrestling room, when I was in high school or as a coach in wrestling, or in college as an engineering student, or you name it, it’s just about hard work. And there’s, there’s there are no magic tricks. And if there were any, there are a few of them today. So it’s a matter of trying things and I despise cliches, but But what I will indulge in here is to fail fast. So we talked about failing fast in the product world, I guess maybe that’s what kind of comes from my background in product management. But try something, don’t commit too much to it don’t become married to any particular concept. And then double down on the things that work. And like you said, there’s there’s a lot of articles written and there’s a lot of fancy words used and so forth. They all tend to be recycled over time. Like I said, I’ve been around the block a few times, in both cybersecurity and in marketing. But But trying things. And then when you fail, give up on the move on and do that quickly when you’re in a startup especially. And that’s my only experience is really in startups even I think the largest company I’ve ever worked for had two or 300 people and it’s something like that. So you just can’t afford to commit too much. And every nickel matters in a and I mean that cliche as well. But in small company marketing budgets, that’s the case as well. And I remember when we first met, and we talked about, you know, Jeff, what are your objectives, and I told you, leads that’s it, nothing else matters. We don’t want to win awards. We don’t care about how many LinkedIn followers we have, or how many likes we get on social media. We want leads and, and that’s what I loved about working with your organization is you guys were, you’re down in the weeds. Very, very business oriented, results oriented organization and you tend to dismiss the fluff of marketing, which is I think why we get along so well because I’ve always been kind of a straightforward guy. And I think when you talk about transparency, that’s what it is. Right? It’s we we need leads in and in in a small company. The rubber meets the road really quickly, because you only have so much cash and which means you only have so much time and you have to go out and sell the brushes and I think sometimes it gets lost in marketing a little bit. When I’m on the road and so forth. They see a lot of people wasting a lot of money on things means. I’m not quite sure, really, really, you’re gonna help them sell more brushes. So that’s kind of that’s kind of my flat, I don’t really answer your question up and kind of rambling on.

Lisa 5:09
Yeah, it answers my question. It’s one of the reasons why I think we jived really well. And working together is there’s often that balance, especially in working with agencies and other startups that I’ve worked with in the past where there’s that need to move quickly and get things done and test but also the fear of, but it also has to be perfect. And it also has to be 100%, right? No, it doesn’t work that way. How do you get over that sense of perfection? What have what have you learned along the way to avoid that,

Jeff 5:44
you peel away all the nonsense, it doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t matter if the logo is a little bit skewed or the colors a little bit off, it doesn’t really matter. When we get you can go around and work on language in an ad, for example, or a piece of content. And it just doesn’t matter that much. If if we change if we change two or three words, it’s about the general message, right is the general message consistent, that kind of thing. It doesn’t matter that the screenshot isn’t as crystal clear as it could be, especially if it’s going to cost us another several hours to get it there. Right? Those things, you know, talk about this all the time, it’s like, I care about the things that are going to impact whether or not we’re selling brushes. And if people come to the website, and in when you obsess over over minut details like that. Again, a lot of small companies, for example, get obsessed over over the logo preservation and, and identity preservation. And that’s it’s good to have, it’s good to be consistent. But we’re not Nike, we’re not Motorola, right? We’re not, you know, if the swishes off somewhere in a building that’s very different than, than whether or not our logo may be a little blurry and this or that. So it’s those little things, you have to peel away? Yes, you want to try to get them right, no doubt about it. But if they’re going to cost you more money and more time, right? You know, how is is we want to get that ad out on one day, whatever it is, and if screwing around with it to make sure it’s perfect, that means it doesn’t get deployed until the following Monday. That’s a week. That’s a real impact, right? Those are leads, we could have been working those leads, it could have been in house and so forth. Those are brushes we could have been selling. So that’s the thing about small company stuff, peel, peel back all that all that nonsense and get to the heart of the matter. Well, we’re in a PR company right now. And, you know, it’s all about backlinks, we want articles. And we if somebody publishes an article in the Wall Street Journal, and there’s no backlink, it doesn’t help us. It really doesn’t media think exaggeration might be nice to have an article in the Wall Street Journal. But generally, you know, it’s backlinks, you’re looking for PR you want you want connections to your website to help, ultimately, your SEO performance. And that’s all we care about, doesn’t matter how many articles we get published, doesn’t matter how many quotes we get, is our domain authority improving, are we starting to get organic inbound, that’s what we’re targeting? That’s the purpose of doing that. Otherwise, there’s no reason to do it.

Lisa 8:08
Yeah, that’s a good point. And a good way to find that focus. You’re laser focused on goals, which is hard in a startup when you’re also trying to do 1,000,010 things. So how do you find that, that laser precision? What’s

Jeff 8:25
what what are these recognize in marketing, right? Is there is absolutely no need for marketing in any company anywhere, unless you’re trying to sell something, right? If there’s no sales, there’s no need for marketing. You know, marketing doesn’t necessarily work for sales. We’re in, in a strict organizational structure capacity, but ultimately, we’re our customer is sales, right? We’re trying to you know, we’re trying to set sales up for success. And, and that’s why I never understood conflicts between sales and marketing and so forth. It seems like the quarterback and the wide receiver kind of thing, right? It’s you’re striving for the same goal. Ultimately, I think sometimes, however, marketing folks get lost in their own KPIs. Right. And then and then when you do that, then you start blaming sales, right? Or you start blaming product or whatever it might be and you just can’t do that in a small organization I know that it’s our cube for example, and we have the same kind of ethos here at attract is you know if if marketing is not doing well, okay, then we get together with sales. Okay, guys, what’s what’s not going on? Right here, you know, get together with you guys. Right? Or, you know, we’re not performing the way we want to perform. Is it in sales? Same way sales is having trouble closing things. Okay. What can we do? How can we help? Are we is our messaging off? Is it inconsistent with the messaging you guys have that goes on so so you’re working together as a team, once you start pointing fingers, it’s all over and you just can’t afford to do that as small company. You don’t have the time and you don’t have the resources to do that. So I think the focus comes from desperation if you will, right or, or just plain old assess already, right, you have either a startup, again, we’re seed funded now. So you have this much funding to get you, which is in funding equals time. And the engineering team needs time, right? To build the product, and the marketing team needs time to build that market and to build a, you know, prospect base and so forth. And the more time we can give ourselves, you know, with that cash, then the higher probability we’re going to be successful. So I think I think the focus is, is a byproduct of just a small company and startup ethos, and

Lisa 10:32
grounded in reality, too. I mean, what I’m what I’m hearing you say is that, what’s the point of trying to make yourself or your your marketing department have one look good when the ultimate goal is you have to make money you have to be focused on on revenue. But beyond that, beyond doing the work and having that shared goal with others in the organization, how have you, throughout your career built a relationship with other departments between product sales? How do you foster that to find that balance of making sure you have that, that precision,

Jeff 11:09
he’s just you just respect their role, right, and you respect the you respect their role in success for the entire organization. And you, you collectively define success the same way? If sales is out there selling stuff that the product team can build, right are promising these they can’t, none of us are going to be successful. If the marketing team is out there saying, you know, we just got, I don’t know, 100 leads this show, but we’re scanning everybody in there, brother, right? And then hand them off to sales, we’re just wasting their time, right? Our numbers might look good. It might call this an MQL. Or the hell it is. But we know damn, well, it’s not. And it’s funny when we’re at shows now, and a lot of what we’re doing is live event based, a lot of our lead generation and in marketing is live event basis, it’s small, regional cybersecurity shows and people come to your booth, and it’ll have a conversation. And clearly they’re not the right person, or they’re not somebody that we can, that our product is relevant for. And they’ll say, you’re gonna scan me and we’re like, we don’t scan you unless we think we can help you. You know, and, and people get taken aback. I mean, they’re, I think they’re sort of pleasantly surprised by that and said, you don’t need six emails from me, right? You’re not the right person, or you’re not in the right business, or you don’t know anything about we’re doing and we just, we can’t help you, we can’t help everybody. But so if I were skiing that person and take it back to the sales, or you know, we don’t have a sales organization, let’s say we did, then they’re gonna waste time following up that individual, maybe trying to call them revert is a reason to do that. And those kinds of mistakes are made all the time. And, and so I think it’s just part of being a small company, where there, there’s always if two people in the room, there’s politics, but But it’s minimal, a small organization, and the deadwood can’t hide there. Right. But that having been said, you have to be willing to be much more transparent in that organization, it would, it’s funny, we have, we have stand up, I would call it stand up, we actually do sit down, but a call every every day at 11 o’clock in the morning with the entire team, it’s nine of us, 10 of us now. And people will say, you know, boy, yesterday, what’d you do yesterday? What do you what do you plan, your day will go by just just a brief, it feels Yes, it’s just one very productive. And it’s a very honest and open kind of thing. I was working on something and beat my head against the wall. And I said, I’m going for a walk and went out for two hour walk and came back and still didn’t figure it out. So I’m gonna talk to such as I say that, but very honest, people are trying to, you know, people weren’t trying to fabricate busyness, or so forth. But in the small organizations, it doesn’t, it’s not helpful to do that, you’re having trouble, you raise your hand, hey, I’m struggling here, not quite sure how to do this, you know, which makes it tough, by the way, to be the only marketing guy. Because there’s, you know, our CEO is, is that a marketing background, but he’s a savvy guy. So you can kick things around with him. But that was one of the things that I love about working with smart acre, because when I was going to hit a wall, or even before I got to the wall, I’d call you guys and and you always had somebody there that had some kind of expertise or experience in that area. And that’s why working with an agency and maybe this could segue just for talking about that is how I strongly recommend startup marketing folks. How they, how they plan to work with an agency first before they actually hire anybody for that reason.

Lisa 14:23
Yeah, let’s talk a little bit more about that. Because in my experience with working with a variety of clients there, it goes two ways either is a really, really successful relationship, or they don’t know how to use an agency and no matter how much we tell them, You have to trust us, you have to come to us. You have to be transparent. We have to be in the fold. We are your marketing team. So if you have a question, if you loop us in, we’re going to be set up for success versus if you’re using us as a hammer of just go do this, then we won’t understand the bigger picture. We won’t be able to be strategic even when we’re being tactical. So what are you Your thoughts with finding that balance between working with an agency? How do you know how much to share? How much to ask? Because you know that we love working with you?

Jeff 15:09
Yeah. So so so first of all, again, it was formed by my my history as a product manager, right? And we say in product management, the product manager is responsible for what to build, the development team is responsible for how to build it. Okay, so product management, hey, we need this. And this is why we need it or the customer blah, blah, blah, customers the market. And then the engineering team goes off inside said ability. You don’t say, I want you to guys to go build it this way. Right? You see, we have a problem we need solved. What do you think? Right? Or how would we do that? It’s very collaborative. I view that the same thing with with with agencies marketing, from a marketing perspective, we need leads, and we need leads in this area, we need this kind of leads, and you just kind of we think it’s as our ICP, it might not be right. And what do you guys, right? This is what we’re doing now. Okay, this has worked a little bit, this hasn’t worked. What do you guys recommend? What do you think we should be doing? And again, you might come up with things that maybe we can’t do it for whatever reason, budgetary limitations might be other reasons why something can’t be done. But that’s how I view working with the spec marketing agencies or any other any other people working with. We’re hiring you to be part of our team or inviting them because you have expertise. Why will we not want to use that? Right? And I go back to go back to a wrestling anecdote we had when I was running our youth program, we had a two time national champion committee, he was actually fifth in the world and made almost better Olympic team. It’s a really nice guy. And he’s, you know, he would run clinics for us on weekends and so forth and meet the guys in and and he we’d ask you to ask as well, what would you like me to teach? Or will jump in and show us what we’re struggling with this area? We’re struggling with that always like to get your take on? You know, how would you do this? Or how, what kind of stress video for them? You’re a world level athlete, Olympic level athlete, you know, why am I going to tell you because he goes, it’s refreshing because I would go into places and the coach would tell me, I want you to show this this way. And this this way, this this way. So why would you bring in somebody with that kind of that level of expertise and, and those credentials, and then tell them what to teach? Right. So that never made any kind of sense to me. And as we’ve talked about going back to you, if when when budget does free up in a startup for marketing? Like right now I’m the marketing person that’s yet you know, is you know, that, you know, we don’t have the ability to hire you right now. We will, as soon as we can. But, but the when you do free up some budget, there’s a knee jerk reaction to say, one, go hire somebody. And I never understood that because you can go to an agency, you can get the equivalent of probably a, you know, essentially a junior level person, right initially. And you have access to experts, like for example, it’s morning or immediate SEO expert, you have them, you need a digital expert, you have them you need a content expert you have, right so but and I don’t need a full time content person, I don’t need a full time SEO person, I don’t need a full time digital ad person, but I need a couple hours here or there. I don’t need a full time design person I don’t need right. And I can go to you guys. And I can pick and choose the expertise I need on any in any given time. And, and that’s just extraordinarily valuable. Like you said, it’s like having a marketing team. They’re not a full time marketing team. But instead of one person was probably junior, I get access to five, six or seven experts for a couple of hours here a couple hours therapy why anybody else would do differently. I have no idea

Lisa 18:40
gives you a lot of opportunity to pivot as things changed so quickly.

Jeff 18:46
Right. SEO expert I know enough to be dangerous. I’m not a digital expert. Same thing. You guys have those people at HubSpot, HubSpot expertise, something done that, you know, you guys did a lot of screwy is HubSpot, HubSpot stuff for us that you know advanced in advanced workflows where the hell was that you guys did really well. But I didn’t need a full time HubSpot expert. But I can give Brian and your your place for whatever, you know, for a few hours this week or next week for a priority project. So that was really really awesome. I really missed I was

Lisa 19:16
listening to an exit five podcasts and they were interviewing a CMO and they were talking about how you build up your team as you start to gain more funding and traction and and everything. And his thought was one of the biggest mistakes that you can make is when you hire for your strengths when you know okay, this is this is what I think we should do. This is how I’ve done it in the past. So I’m going to start to build my team because I feel like we need to have a content strategy. That’s my background, you know, strong and in building that aspect out and if you just hire for that, as opposed to recognizing your weaknesses and then hiring for your weaknesses. You won’t be able to have your gaps filled. You’ll just keep doing naturally what you’re good at versus having someone challenge you. You So how do you focus on that? What are some of your strengths? How do you plan for that? And how do you recognize that?

Jeff 20:06
Yeah. So, you know, I’ve always been a good writer, right? So contents never been real issue. Sometimes you have a dearth of ideas or somebody someone to help you sort of guide you there. But, but I’m strong in content generation and development and product marketing, that kind of stuff. Right. But not very good in social media at all right? Not very good with digital ads, again, enough to be dangerous. On social media, again, usually, let’s face it as younger folks that are better at social media. I’m, I think there’s there’s marginal benefit to all the social media work a lot of people do not say, I think it’s it’s a, it’s a can’t hurt kind of thing. I don’t know that it should be at the core of anybody’s objectives to actually generate leads. And it just, it just takes either too long, or it’s too subtle, especially for startup, you have to go much faster. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Right. And it doesn’t mean it can’t be done better. You know, SEO, I know enough to be dangerous, like I said, but there’s a lot of nuances there. And that’s changing rapidly. We joked the other day about hopefully you guys are figuring all that out with chat CBT. And, and how that’s going to impact search and organic search. And, and by the time I have some money to hire you guys, you guys will figure that out for us, because

Lisa 21:28
I hope so.

Jeff 21:31
But yeah, digital ad optimization, just pull. We talked about pulling the levers, you can’t know how to pull all the levers all the time again, I I work in HubSpot every day, but I’m by no means a HubSpot expert. So these are the things that I know there’s an example attendees repetitively, but there are others as well. website updates, landing page design, things of that nature, you know, there’s a good example of that fail fast methodology or that ethos we talked about where we don’t know how many times we go through a landing page, it’s not working, right? And then you guys come back, hey, how about this, maybe this is what’s going on, you guys have analyzed some of the, you know, some of the some of the traffic, some of the metrics, and we and we dropped, but we did it quickly, right? We didn’t wait a year, we wait six months, it could be a couple of days, hey, this isn’t working. You know, we’re getting all kinds of clicks and not click through. It’s not working. Right. So. But I think that that’s it, that’s why I like it, there’s so many facets to any any discipline, whether it be cybersecurity, or whether it be marketing, in our case, and to be experts in all of them is expert, and all of them is almost impossible. So that’s why you want to see, and I can’t afford to hire five people in the organization, I’d be bored to death anyway, you know, because they wouldn’t have enough work to do full time if they were just a digital ad expert, for example. Yep,

Lisa 22:50
makes sense. So you touched a little bit on current trends. And I think every every good marketer right now is paying attention to AI and what’s next, and even seeing some typical tactics that aren’t just aren’t working as well as they have in the past. So you’re in the thick of it, you’re in this position where you’re getting to try a lot of things, tests, a lot of things, you’re also in the midst of raising some funding. So from your perspective, what trends are you seeing what’s working and what’s not? Yeah,

Jeff 23:20
so so so cold outbound looks like it’s dead. It’s just, it’s just in people will bitch about that, but or challenge that I should say, they’ll debate it. But the people I know that are doing the work. So the pandemic killed people in an office anymore, you can’t get them on the phone inboxes are just crazy full. And in AI is just probably contributing to a lot of this as well. Overload so that you can’t get the people that way. And, again, we’ve had success, we did some we’ve done some digital ad experiments. And we’ve had some success, again, we have a sort of a plg model that we’re that we’re experimenting with, we think it’s got a lot of potential. And so we you know, we ran some digital ad experiments to, to validate that, that hypothesis. And the preliminary data, although very, very small data set was was helpful. So we like digital ads paid search, a little bit of that, again, all done in moderation. But right now our live events, regional event strategy is is is what we’re focusing on as as we as we watch our nickels and dimes and we get a chance to actually meet people shake hands, look him in the eye and have a conversation that we’re doing and it helps a couple ways we always walk out of those, those small regional events 100 150 attendees are may be but a booth and we we come out of there with five to 10 Let’s say let’s say three to eight registrants on our platform, maybe another five to 10 Interested parties, we call them MQLs. So you’ll have In between, you know, maybe in a really bad show tan and really good show up to 30 or 40. You know, folks that are now going to be in our database and nurture list if not actually on our platform using it. And we can all we can bank on that. And not only that, but we have conversations with people is what we’re doing important to them, is that the kind of thing that they eventually will pay for, is it a problem they really have, this is our approach to the problem, something that’s resonating hard to get that if you’re not actually standing in facing somebody and talking with them. So some opportunities to have a cup of coffee or beer afterward. Not always, but sometimes that that’s, that’s a, that’s a great way to go about things as well. But so we’re having success there. Because one of the things we it’s, we can count on it, right, we might have a bad show. But we’re not, we’re not experimenting too much. We’re doing it we do a lot of content work as much as we can to try to build our, our domain authority and try to, you know, try to try to help our search results, organic search results, we’re in a tough space, we’re you know, we’re in the same world as a lot of legacy folks who have been here 10, literally 20 years and so they’ve built up that that web presence so it’s hard to it’s hard to you know, to to chip away at their organic search success. But we are doing that, like I said with a very small PR firm we’re working with and we’re getting stories placed in in publications and backlinks but as you know, that’s a slow slog up a steep hill. But that’s that’s that’s the crux what we’re doing right now. He was in LinkedIn presence. I mean, we have a Twitter account. We never post on like butcher anybody’s doing much with Twitter now anyway. But, but those are, those are what we’re doing. And you know, there’s not that much under the sun. We like to do some webinars, eventually, we will. But really, the trick to webinars is getting people there. There are some we’ve thought about there’s some there’s some influence, social media influencers, if you will, in a cybersecurity space, we’re probably getting engaged with them, some organizations down the road, we’d like to work with, you know, some ice axe that kind of stuff. haven’t done that yet. Eventually, we’ll get around to that. But right now it’s about it’s about building it, building the presence on the platform, getting people to use our solution. And when they use it, we get feedback. And it’s really important to us right now, hey, this, we really need this, we really need that we really liked this feature, this one here, maybe not so much. That’s very helpful to us.

Lisa 27:27
And what trends are you seeing in the funding aspect compared to prior to what’s what’s different right now. And the current economic situation that we’re in,

Jeff 27:37
things have tightened up significantly, in the last, say, 24 months, something like that, I think would happen was during the pandemic, and I say I think this is not my original thought folks that I talked with in the investment community. They, you know, during the pandemic, everybody in I mean invested in a one time reckless manner. One I should say, wanting to lead wantonly reckless manner, and in those chickens are now starting to come home to roost. So you know, funding pre revenue companies with without much of a vision or maybe just a vision, not much else. That’s definitely out of vote. And, and in so people looking more for for solid revenue in revenue growth, which I could tell you in the last company, that wasn’t what they were interested in when we were late. So the last company, we had solid revenue growth, and they weren’t interested in unfortunately. So we’re a bit ahead of our time there. And and I think that this it AI is the AI is the buzzword now. So AI solutions are being funded left and right. Those chickens will probably come home to roost at some point in the future as well. But yeah, it’s a much it’s a much tougher, it’s a much tougher Vc, Vc world that was environment that it was, again, like I said, 1824 months ago, no doubt about that.

Lisa 29:03
Awesome, I do want to switch gears a little bit because it putting ourselves in the shoes of junior marketers who may be listening to this, thinking you made it you working with these startups, two of them have been sold, you’re in a new role where you’re laser focused on your priorities, you’re crushing it. What have you got? Where have you gone wrong? What are some of the mistakes that Jeff Hill has made throughout your career that you’ve really learned from?

Jeff 29:32
Well been fired a few times. Maybe been a little too vocal with senior management when you’re a little bit younger. wasn’t wasn’t the best. wasn’t the best diplomat at times. So that’s, that’s that’s a challenge. When you’re younger, you’re a lot more volatile, at least I was. So you said I’ve been fired a couple times and usually because there’s a conflict management about what we should or shouldn’t do. I think I think we’re went right in came back and focus on that a little more is I started in the product world, right. So I don’t consider myself to have an engineering background, I consider myself technical in the world I operate. But I’m more technical than, than a lot of the marketing folks and so forth. And this is this is a, I guess, a bit of a bit of a sexist trope, if you will, I don’t know what I was saying. I heard this way back in the early 90s, my old boss, he was like, he was like you want to be you want to be a little prettier than the smart girls a little smarter than the pretty girls, right? So you kind of want to be middle. So you want to be technical. But you also want to be able to talk to customers, and you want to be able to write and stuff. And so my skill set tends to fall in that space where, you know, I can, I can get certain technical concepts. And I can understand the marketplace at a high level. So I’m not, you know, mile wide, but and maybe maybe just a couple of inches deep. And I think advice to sort of the young young marketing folks is get as deep technically as you can. There’s always somebody there willing to talk to you about I’m not talking about coding, I’m talking about understanding, for example, in cybersecurity, there are buzzwords all over the place and acronyms and so forth. And radiations, on what they are, understand what XDR is versus MDR, what’s MDR, you know, you don’t have to be a penetration tester to understand how penetration testing how it becomes part of the overall cybersecurity stack, if you will, or cybersecurity strategy to defend organization. And I tend to find a tendency young marketing folks that, that don’t don’t have a lot of interest in it, and don’t have a lot of edge. Wow, that’s a technical stuff. There’s a technical resource here for somebody here, as opposed to listening those conversations when that when somebody comes up and talks about well, what does that word mean? Now? Well, that’s just a and usually there’s a relatively simple explanation for what that is. And I did that today. With with with Mike, our CEO, very technical guy will be the booth and how the conversations who will talk talk me through what what he was asking, right, and how you answered it and couldn’t get that, you know, and I love that. Yeah. And and of course, there’s, I don’t know, anybody that’s gonna say, No, I’m not going to take my time with you. I’m not going to talk with you about that. I knew nothing about AI to startups ago, we were an AI based vulnerability management prioritization company. And I work closely with our AI guy, AI researcher, and we wrote a lot of content together. And in writing that content, I talked to him about something inherent. And I would try to sort of write it, he would review and say, You’re wrong here, Jeff, you’re right here, that kind of stuff. And, and I remember, sometimes I would prompt some metaphors. And either Wow, that’s a great way to put that or whatever. And we really became close. And I learned a ton about AI. You know, I can’t code a deep learning algorithm or something like that. But, but but I could get a sense for for how I worked a little bit as the quote unquote, marketing guy. And, and even now, if I’m at the booth, I mean, I could, you know, if there’s, there’s a certain level of technical question that I just not able to answer. But usually, it’s a reference to something someone’s using, well, we’re using XYZ. And I’ve never heard of that. I’ve never used it. And so is that really a technical issue or just a sort of market issue? And then Michaels saying, Well, that’s an RMM, or whatever it is, and they’re doing it, here’s what they’re using it for, they’re using, and sometimes he stumped to never heard of that. So. And it’s okay. But I see a lot of people, you know, again, at the booths, where all they’re concerned about is the swag and things of that nature in there, or whatever it might be. But as opposed to the actual conversations happening, it’s a golden opportunity for marketing people to listen, if their content writers understand the product, you use it, you have someone give you a demo, ask for instance, can I poke around with it? I know sometimes I’ll help write documentation for the product that helps me learn the product, right? And end, this is not going right down in the weeds talking about command lines, you know, coding or Python, or it might be something I’m not know anything about, but you don’t need to be there. But I think that’s that’s where in my career, I’ve been unafraid to ask dumb questions over and over again. That’s kind of how I learned things. Now, you know, in the course there’s there’s a wealth of information on the internet, you can supplement that with but that’s my recommendation market. You’re not just the fucking marketing guy who should be you know, you’re, you’re a member of the team and you should be able to understand the product and understand where it sits in the marketplace. And in the longer you’re there, the more you should know about that product, how it works, what it does, what it doesn’t do that kind of thing. So that’d be my recommendation. And where I’ve gone wrong again, like I said, it’s just not being diplomatic enough be a little too passionate at times. But and I think sometimes it took a while to go with this where you, you think there’s, there’s something under the sun, that you that you’re not aware of all these, all the other fancy schmancy marketing people, you know, in their words in their titles is a really, it’s there’s not that much new under the sun, there’s really not. And the principles are pretty basic. So it’s hard work. It’s hard work. Well,

Lisa 35:31
I will say when we work together on dark cubed, it was hard for me to admit failure in some of our quick tests that we tried to run and learn from, especially on our LinkedIn ads, when you’re marketing passion and hypothesis is this is going to work. This is the one and then you have an ugly screenshot that’s outperforming every

Jeff 35:55
everything exactly I, like I’ll work with, you know, you guys are the the, the digital graphics agency. And so we’re like, Well, what do you want? I don’t know how that’s gonna work. I really did. I mean, so we’re gonna try 10 You know, and then we’re gonna pick the one that works. And like you said, that’s an excellent anecdote. It’s maybe we just talked about it, but because bring in the audience on the inside joke, and we, we went through slick design ad after slick designed ad, we did market analysis, and we we actually hired a consumer or a consultant, everything. And in the best performing ad was an ad that was was was built, bombed before either of us were in dark cubed. It was an ugly looking screenshot, just columns and numbers. And that outperformed anything we ever did. So that’s the win, right? Not gonna win any awards. No one’s gonna say it’s funny how people review as of the time what’s what’s send these ads around and review them. What do you think? I mean, the only reason I would review an ad that you guys built from your something is, is it accurate? That’s all I’m doing, is what we’re saying accurate? Technically, once that’s the case, whether the colors are this, I don’t know what’s going to work in the marketplace. I don’t know if this works, but this one should be capitalized? I don’t know. So we just got to try it out. But that’s the only thing I know. And in large organizations, people review as well, you guys have no idea what’s going to work? You know, you don’t so, so why waste time? That’s another good example of why waste time money in energy, worrying about something, we just get it out there, see how it does, you know, and then pick the one that works? So hard to do. I think for some reason, people, maybe people believe that they’re, well, anybody could do that, or where’s my expertise? Anybody can write? And maybe again, but, you know, you just you just don’t know what’s going to work. So why waste time trying to figure it out internally, you know, and again, this goes back to the old product, my product background, you could sit around and say, Is this feature good? Or is this feature bad? We think should we build here as your roadmap? Ask the customers or ask the prospects or ask the marketplace? Right people you have got, we’re thinking of this, what do you think? And I guarantee you they’re going to come back and tell you something you hadn’t thought of or a perspective you didn’t have the real problem we’re having it’s this Oh, we thought this was the breakdown happens all the time. And in the product world and my you know, you bring those principles over to marketing and lead generation I think they translate well.

Lisa 38:27
Yep, completely agree. There’s always something to be learned. Knowing your audience key theme throughout this even you know, the conversations that you’re having it at the shows that you’re doing events that you’re doing. One of my favorite questions to ask all the time is just why I tell my team that just ask at least just ask why if you don’t if you can’t think of a single other question. Yeah, just simply why? Why are we doing this? Just sparks a lot of conversation. Excellent

Jeff 38:55
point. It’s funny when we’re at the booth to one of the things that discipline I learned this 100 years ago from some salesperson was really good. It was the young Product Manager at Amana. I met one of my first shows really excited about my product and people would walk up and they tell you the product I couldn’t wait to tell him about product. Oh, this isn’t me. And and sales guy was was great. And it’s quite soft spoken guy from the UK, you know, and he was, he was like, I’m going to suggest something different. When somebody walks up to the booth, you ask them questions first, okay. And he showed me how to do it. And now I do someone come and say tell me your product. We’ll say well, what do you do it whatever first, you know, and we’ll get the name tag or whatever, Mike or Sally or whatever. What do you do there? Well, we do this and, and you find out a couple of things. Number one, they may not be anywhere near your ballpark. And it’s really there’s really no reason to waste your time or their time going through some kind of product pitch number one. Number two, they might talk to you about some of the problems they’re having. Right. And or you know, they can tell you about some of the relationships they have in the company and how they might impact. And so you can tune your, you can tune your pitch when you actually go to pitch them to something they’ve already told you. And I think that that’s hard to do. It’s hard to ask questions even when someone asks questions first. And in recommend that to anybody, you know, tell me about yourself or tell me what you do. And you know, what brings you to the show? Is it just for CPE credits? Or actually you would kind of what are you struggling with right now? Or what are some of the things you can make it even that open ended? And then you start a dialogue? And let’s face it, people like to talk about themselves, right? It’s the best, the best conversationalist you’ve been around, probably are people that are constantly asking you about yourself while in a party or something. And who don’t you want to be around people that do nothing but talk about themselves, right? Oh, my God, that guy wouldn’t shut up about Yeah. So so if the booth or wherever the more questions you can ask people, it’s just common sense, but so many people don’t do it. Right. I learned that lesson one long time ago. I think one of the one

Lisa 41:00
of the biggest pitfalls I see in b2b marketing in general is forgetting that no matter what, you’re still marketing to people. So you have to be mindful of that. Yeah, human beings understand them. Everyone has something that makes them tick or a challenge that they’re trying to solve. And if you look past that, you’re not going to have good marketing, no matter what.

Jeff 41:20
Excellent point. Yeah, corporations are people.

Lisa 41:24
100%. All right, we’ve covered a lot. We’ve been talking for a while now, I do want to go into this Wickel sizzle. So these are just some questions. Jeff has no idea what I’m about to ask him for everyone listening. So one thing that you do every week to find balance when you’re hitting your head against the wall trying to write content or whatever it is that you’re working on. How do you find balance?

Jeff 41:44
I’m an Exercise not. Yeah, I’m a Stairmaster guy. So if I’m starting to fade, it’s, you know, it’s a workout in the morning. And that’s usually when my mind is working best, you know, for content, that kind of stuff. But if I hit a wall, they’ll grab another workout somewhere, you know, maybe we’ll take the dog for a walk. But I’d like to like to get get the heart pumping, if I can. And so that’s probably the best way to hit a wall, just get away from the computer, start staring at it, you’re just I’m writing something, and I’m staring at the same goddamn sentence for you know, 1520 minutes, it’s time to put that down, either go to something else, go take a walk, you know, grab a workout, whatever it might be. So that’s certainly how I would do it.

Lisa 42:27
Love it. I’m a treadmill advocate. I get a lot of my inspiration there sometimes.

Jeff 42:32
My best thoughts, no doubt, no doubt. Yeah. That was

Lisa 42:36
going to ask what wrestling and marketing have in common. But you actually kind of already answered that. So I’m going to instead ask you what your dad so what do parenting and marketing have in common? Well,

Jeff 42:48
that’s a good question. Probably nothing. Yeah, let’s see. Because I would say I’m a much better marketer than I am a father, despite my best efforts, but

Lisa 43:03
failing fast has a new meaning when you apply it to children. Yeah, but yeah,

Jeff 43:07
the thing is, is they just don’t cooperate much, you know, it’s, you can’t? I don’t know. I don’t know. That’s, that’s an excellent question. I can’t think of anything that I can think of anything that parenting has in common with anything else I’ve ever done in my life.

Lisa 43:24
valid answer. For me, it’s the little things like I’ve really refined my value proposition and getting my two and three year olds to brush their teeth. It’s like, I really have to understand my target audience. Help them understand the why in ways I never realized before.

Jeff 43:39
I can see that. My kids are so 25 and 22. So it’s been a while since we had to worry about brushing teeth. At least I hope so.

Lisa 43:51
I hope so too. Do you have a favorite mantra or quote that you live by?

Jeff 43:58
I do. I can’t think of it right now. Repeating the same, the same nonsense, trying to think of like, I’ll be damned Billy’s a mantra that I live by, like you said, we talked about fail fast and marketing. I mean, that’s probably that’s probably a big one. You know, one of I can’t, we’re going to end this call. I’m going to have six of them. So I apologize. Yeah. Let’s go on to the next one. I’m failing to speed round here.

Lisa 44:30
That’s okay. You can you can send them to us. We’ll include them in the transcript. All right. Okay, last question. What are some of your favorite sources for marketing knowledge or inspiration? Where do you go to get info

Jeff 44:44
you know, all all. There’s a Amani, cybersecurity marketing society Slack channel. And we get a chance to poke around there like to see what people were doing. There’s their different threads obviously, or channels, I guess you’d call them and So I go there. And again, these are this is specifically cybersecurity marketing folks. So I’ll go there, some of my former colleagues, people that I’ve worked with, that will kick ideas around, hey, this is working for me, is this working for you? We’ll trade numbers on a What are you paying for an MQL? Now, how you doing on whatever it might be? Kind of how you doing? These are that KPIs? So I would say more to my peers, you know, probably taught, you know, I’ve talked to you guys about it, if you know if, if that made sense, and we’re working together, I like to do that, even if we’re not. But yeah, I’ve seen piers Slack channels. He’s that now and then I’ll see something on LinkedIn and might be interesting article. But usually, that stuff is just designed to create more buzzwords, you know, but now, and then you’ll see people with really good examples. There was a actually, Mike, my boss sent me something somebody did an article about, it was a company that built a plg practice business in cybersecurity, which is very hard to do, and sort of the word on the street is it’s really not possible to build a PLC cyber product. And these guys were doing it how they did it. A lot of details in the article. So now and then I’ll pick something like that, if it’s not just pablum, you know, and impact kind of stuff. So those are probably the places I would say, but definitely peers. Here’s a big one.

Lisa 46:30
Agree. Yeah, it’s important to have that network of people that you can tap. Yeah. All right, Jeff, we covered a lot. I could keep talking to you. Is there anything else that you want the agency balance listeners to know before we wrap things up here? No,

Jeff 46:45
no, no, I don’t think so. I’m, like you said, Work work hard and good things happen. You know, and that’s in that’s marketing to its marketing to in be technical be to get as technical as you can learn about the product in the marketplace you’re in you will add more value to your organization. And I think your your career track will progress more rapidly. But so don’t don’t just think marketing is about is about the swag in the booth that’s not marketing.

Lisa 47:18
And trackd, who should be interested, where can they learn more?

Jeff 47:22
Yeah. So if it’s, these are cybersecurity people, if you’re if anybody listening is in cybersecurity, specifically vulnerability management and vulnerability remediation that world come see us And we have a really interesting take on on the problem, the primary problem of vulnerability management. So, thank you. All right,

Lisa 47:44
well, yeah. And where can folks find you?

Jeff 47:48
They can find me on LinkedIn, Jeff Hill, and somebody wants to send me an email Feel free to reach out. I don’t know. I can give any advice I give you it’ll be worth every dollar you pay for it. I promise you.

Lisa 48:03
Awesome. Thank you so much, Jeff. I really appreciate your time. This was a great conversation.

Jeff 48:08
My pleasure, Lisa time