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Blue Ridge CMO Todd Craig On Scaling A SaaS Company With Smart Marketing Strategy

by Holly Beilin

Compelling content and branding can be instrumental in driving sales, revenue, and ultimately success of any company, and all of that rests on the shoulders of the marketing team. Thus, it’s critical for a scaling company to have a tested, knowledgable marketing lead to not only pull in customers, but ensure they are taking advantage of all your solutions and retaining them over time.

Cloud-based SaaS company Blue Ridge, which provides cloud-native supply chain planning technology for retail clients, recognized the need for top marketing talent to continue driving their growth — earlier this month they announced a record-breaking first half of the year in terms of company growth and client expansion. To lead those marketing efforts, they brought on career B2B supply chain marketer Todd Craig, who formerly served as CMO at LogFire, which was acquired by Oracle last year.

“A true CMO focuses on blending brand, outbound, inbound, account-based and the latest marketing technology trend,” says Craig. “Senior marketers have to understand the compelling event that drives the prospect to look or a solution and be the obvious choice on all channels when that search begins.”

Craig shares more on his view on how technology like data analytics and machine learning is disrupting the supply chain industry, why marketing is needed to drive leads and retain customers, and how Blue Ridge will lead the way in the supply chain software market.

You have a long career in the supply chain industry — how do you see the market for logistics software growing or shifting? What new innovations are being brought to the field?

The supply chain marketplace is now entering an era of unprecedented disruption. For the past thirty years, goods have been manufactured and pushed out on a linear supply chain to the client or consumer and managed by solutions that were just as old. The end point of consumption was always a retail outlet or wholesaler where the goods would be purchased and then taken away by the client or consumer. The supply chain was set up to go down this linear path.

With the rise of e-commerce and the connected consumer, a seismic shift is occurring in the retail landscape — moving supply chains from a “push model” to a “pull model” where consumers are pulling products through the supply chain. Supply chains have to be demand-driven and connected to the consumer, to understand buying patterns and have the correct inventory on hand, ultimately increasing customer satisfaction and sales.

This is all made possible by the cloud and the access to computing power. The ability to crunch through millions and millions of customer transactions to help forecast inventory levels and positions is a game changer. And when you add in the element of big data and now machine learning, you are reaching a level of sophistication and accuracy that knows what a customer is going to buy before they know it.

Why Blue Ridge — what attracted you to the company?

When you break the supply chain industry down to its simplest description, you have two disciplines — planning and execution. In planning you are forecasting a product’s demand: how and when you are going to need the inventory to fulfill demand. With execution, you are moving the physical inventory to the point of consumption. In today’s environment, optimizing the physical move is only half of the equation; planning tells you what inventory you need to have and where it needs to be located, and most importantly, how to execute in the most profitable way. This is where smart retailers and wholesalers are starting the conversation.

Adding in the efficiencies of the cloud has accelerated the adoption of solutions. Blue Ridge’s cloud-native delivery platform helps customers achieve measurable results in weeks or months. And although some legacy supply chain solutions are migrating to the cloud, most of these systems are not architected from the cloud-up to take full advantage of the capabilities of multi-server, cloud-native architecture.

When you add these points up, our solution is truly a game-changing competitive advantage for today’s retailers competing with the likes of Amazon. They have to be smarter and more precise in meeting customer demand.  This is the kind of disruption that is compelling to me. How do we overthrow the status quo? How can my team change the thinking of a 30-year-old industry? A daunting task, but nevertheless, fun and exciting at the same time.

Why does a rapidly-scaling company need a CMO?

In my past experiences with startups, there is a maturation to the marketing process. When you are beginning, product and people take precedence. Most of your time, money and resources are spent making sure that those first few clients are successful and form credibility in the marketplace. But the real fun starts when a company takes on a private equity partner to fuel growth. Expectations have grown beyond proving that the product is viable to scaling.

With SaaS and cloud solutions, the marketing and sales model has changed. In the traditional B2B enterprise selling model, statistics say only about 30 percent of a sales representatives pipeline was marketing originated — meaning that the representative had to drum up the remaining 70 percent of the pipeline. With cloud solutions, it’s the inverse to an extreme. Marketing is now not only responsible for the initial sales, we are responsible for upsell opportunities and renewals. With cloud, we are proving our value every day and marketing never sleeps. This is when a company needs a CMO and it makes my feet hit the ground a little faster and harder each morning.

You were instrumental in the sale of LogFire [to Oracle, in 2016]. What did you learn from the selling process, both pre and post-acquisition?

Pre-acquisition I learned that messaging matters. Being able to differentiate yourself and clearly explain your value proposition is paramount, especially in an established marketplace. Early technology marketing focused on brand building, which was an art. With all of the marketing tech options available, today’s marketing has moved to science. It really focuses on automating and optimizing the delivery of content faster. But delivering a sub-par message faster or better is still not getting you anywhere. It’s the true blend of art and science that set’s your products and services apart in a sea of competition.

Post-acquisition I learned to be careful about what you ask for. Oracle is and will continue to be an amazing organization. But when you have 40,000 sales reps covering the globe, marketing becomes more about sales enablement and asset development than it is about direct revenue creation. In a growing organization with a SaaS offering, like Blue Ridge, marketing is responsible for driving revenue. I may have missed my calling by not being in sales, because I thoroughly enjoy having a quota number on my back. You have to understand your niche and where you can provide value.

How can you apply those experiences in your new role?

There are some uncanny similarities to my previous role at LogFire/Oracle and my current opportunity at Blue Ridge. Both are in the supply chain space but focusing on different disciplines, and both were trying to change an industry filled with outdated, older technology, to cloud-native solutions. I feel like I have a head start on some of my learnings and we’re in the process of putting the pieces together a little quicker than before. I also know what worked well and drove revenue fast. The key now is creating a compelling message and then employ what has worked in the past — just faster this time!

Where do you see Blue Ridge going, in terms of both growth and product development, over the next year? 

We have a full plate in front of us, but we’re also hungry. From a product perspective, we need to continue driving down the path of incorporating deeper machine learning and artificial intelligence into the platform. We are going to embody the benefits of doing business with a cloud-native company. We want to be easy to do business with and prove our value every day to our customers.  We want to focus on the supply chain planning space and continue to be a best-of-breed leader, partnering with other solution sets where it makes sense and provides additional value. We’ll also look to broaden our horizons globally. Never a dull moment — there’s a lot to do.

We have a market to take over, and that is going to take some real effort and ingenuity.

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