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Interview with Darren Cunningham, Vice President Marketing at OpsRamp

Rhythm Singhal By Rhythm Singhal in Interviews-L on

Darren Cunningham is the Vice President Marketing at OpsRamp, which delivers a SaaS platform for modern digital operations management. OpsRamp is an early-stage software company backed by Sapphire Ventures based in San Jose, CA. The company is focused on bringing together historically disconnected functions like infrastructure monitoring and escalation management in a unified platform that is powered by AI and machine learning (AIOps) so that IT operations teams can be more efficient, proactive and aligned with the business.

Your Journey as a Marketing Professional.

The most impactful part of my journey has been the opportunity to work with and learn from great leaders along the way:

Early in my career, I was working at a start-up in Ottawa, Canada that was acquired by Business Objects, a publicly traded business intelligence (BI) company with dual headquarters in Paris, France and San Jose, California. I had the opportunity to live in Paris and work with a group of fantastic product marketers, many of whom I am still close with today. The CMO was Dave Kellogg, someone who always took the time to coach and mentor the team. He emphasized the importance of learning the principles of good marketing and the need for marketing to focus on helping sales sell. He continues to do so on his popular blog, which I think your readers will enjoy: Kellblog.com.

Business Objects moved all marketing to the Bay Area and after a few years, I followed a few former colleagues to Salesforce to try to build an analytics product line. It was about ten years too early for analytics to be a Salesforce product priority, but it was definitely the place to get the software as a service (SaaS) religion. Once again I got to work with amazing people and ultimately moved into a group working with early-stage companies building apps and integrations for the AppExchange, which had just been launched. This really led me on my journey, balancing the need to establish a clear brand promise, differentiated and defensible competitive positioning, the right demand generation machine, and a strong focus on both sales and customer success. Since my stint at Salesforce, I’ve been fortunate to be a part of some great teams focused on disrupting traditional approaches to enterprise software with innovative SaaS solutions (LucidEra, Informatica, SnapLogic, New Relic). It may sound glib, but the right product (delivering real value) at the right time (combined with a mix of vision, mission, execution) taken to market by the right team (management, investors, peers, direct reports) matters so do your homework and take your time on the way in if you can. Once you’re in, be a student of the game. Learn your market. Know your competition. Get close to customers. And of course, partner closely with sales to ensure they’re getting what they need from marketing.

What are the primary marketing channels you have worked on? What will be your advice to young marketers on each of these channels?

I’ve been primarily focused on enterprise B2B software delivered as a cloud service. There are many online and off-line channels to consider, but before any of them are relevant I think it’s critical to start by nailing down your priority buyer personas. There’s an interesting discussion in marketing and product management about personas vs. Jobs to be Done (check out Competing Against Luck by Clay Christensen), but I’ve always started with personas. And it’s not just a matter of identifying a few relevant titles. You really have to get in their shoes before you can determine which channels to invest in:

  • What is this person responsible for?
  • What does it mean to be successful in this role?
  • What are their biggest challenges and how do they overcome them?
  • How do they learn more information on the job?
  • What publications/blogs do they read and which associations do they belong to?
  • How do they like to interact with vendors (email, in person, phone)?
  • What type of information do they look for when researching vendors online?
  • What does this persona currently think about their status quo?
  • What do we want them to do? (CTA)
  • Etc.

All of this will influence your messaging, but it’s equally relevant for your channel strategy at every stage of the funnel (because everyone loves TOFU, MOFU, BOFU, right?). This information will help you know if you should double down on analyst relations, ABM, PPC, trade shows, meetups, or all of the above.

My advice from here is to experiment early and often – test and measure. Only invest when you see the real success that is measured by conversion from leads to pipeline to closed business.

It may sound obvious, but I also recommend you align your content strategy with SEO. It’s amazing to me how many companies crank out amazing content with little to no investment in SEO. What’s the point of a fantastic blog if your target personas can’t find it?

What are some of the important marketing software that you have used and found to be really useful for your company?

At OpsRamp, we use Hubspot and Salesforce. I’m a big fan of Google Analytics to closely monitor website traffic trends and we’ve used Hotjar to make meaningful improvements to website design. Ahrefs is useful for SEO monitoring and our BDR team uses Outreach effectively. LeanData has been quite useful in the past. Whatever the tech stack, the important thing is that you’re doing a regular metrics review with the team and sharing the results outside of marketing for both visibility and accountability.

Would you like to share a few words about any marketing software that you absolutely love and always recommend it to others?

Watch out for the shiny new toy. I don’t believe there’s a silver bullet. In fact, many tools are too easy to implement poorly. Ensure you have the expertise and take the time get the most out of the tools you have before looking for additional tech that won’t fix a broken process and insufficient skills.

Your 2 line advice to people entering in the marketing domain.

Don’t be in a rush to specialize. Aim to be a full-stack marketer, which could mean being as good in slides as you are in spreadsheets.

Get as close as you can to your customers and your sales team and have empathy and respect for both.