Arun Sundar, Chief Marketing Officer of entomo, talks to The Ortus Club’s Vincey Romey about how he sees risks as opportunities and the challenges he has faced in his career journey as a Chief Marketing Officer.
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Can you describe the role of a CMO in one word. Why?
Identity. Marketing is not just about generating leads. It’s also about building brands. It’s understanding how the market or the organisation is evolving. Marketing is about building, nurturing, sustaining, and growing the identity of the organisation.
What current challenges are CMOs facing right now? Can you identify a solution?
We sit at the intersection between the external and internal worlds, which are changing at a pace we’ve never seen before. There are multiple factors, such as macroeconomic, social, and political, but the world around us has changed. Potential threats preserve excitement, so I wouldn’t call them challenges. I would call them opportunities.
Leadership is about building awareness, understanding what’s happening inside, and balancing where you are and where you want to be. It requires good observation. Observe, digest, and plan your strategies accordingly.
How do you explain the success you’ve had in your career?
Our organisation did not act impulsively. We didn’t do things just because others were doing them. We didn’t do things just because consultants, analysts, or the world told us to. When we started the company more than a decade ago, we called ourselves KPI Soft. People understood what we did. Eventually, we grew as a company, and our number of users grew. Then, when we observed what we were doing and what we called ourselves, there was a disconnect. It takes companies years to consider renaming themselves. We decided to rebrand and reposition.
When the pandemic hit, we didn’t think about changing the solution, our value proposition. Instead, we looked at how the same solution could be more relevant in the New World, which was unfolding. We multiplied our number of users by 30 in two years.
Lastly, instead of thinking about what could we optimise further in our marketing strategy, we looked at what could we do better to find high-intent indicators and overlay that with our marketing strategy. Eventually, our lead quality, engine, and lead intent were 2.5 times higher than the industry average. LinkedIn even wrote a case study about us.
“80% is planning, and 20% is doing. Observe, digest, and plan your strategies accordingly.”
Can you tell us about a time you took a major risk in your career?
It’s important not to take risks but to take calculated approaches. I’ve taken steps where the probability of success was relatively lower than what it is baseline in the industry. I left a well-established multinational to join a relatively small company that solved a very important problem. We did some great things, and the outgrowth even became a Harvard Business Review case study.
How can you see your role evolving in the next two to three years?
Taking on the role of a CMO is a huge risk, but it is also a great opportunity. A few years back, they always had a seat at the table for the CFO and the CEO. Unfortunately, the CMOs were replaced by Chief Data Officers or Chief Technology Officers. They could talk in the language the CEO understood, which was all about money. At the end of the day, what matters to an organisation is providing value on top of all the fundamentals. Marketers lost the ability to create a narrative in the dollar language.
Now, I foresee a Renaissance in marketing. We are now talking about customer and brand experience. We are tying it back to dollar value, impacting revenue and long-term potential. Marketing will metamorphose into a revenue-generating function that continuously redefines the future identity of the company. Marketing will flow into the role that a traditional CEO is supposed to be playing, which is exciting.
What marketing/business trends are you taking advantage of right now?
The martech stack had a lot of hype, but it’s maturing only now. The traditional issue with having high-intent leads is not knowing whether the personality is correct. Marketers always had to sacrifice between targeting and intent. If you were to marry engine data with targeting data and use analytics, then your potential for success is much higher.
t’s about technology and the quality of people coming back into the fold. There was a time when the best talent always wanted to join a marketing, then it started changing. But, I see that good talent is interested in returning.
What career advice would you like to share with CMOs?
Observe, observe, and observe. The world has dramatised the importance of action and outcomes, but you need to understand the identity of the company and where the market is going. 80% is planning, 20% is doing, and the rest is extraordinary execution using technology.