May 10, 2024
30 min
Episode 70

TOP CMO: Michael Sanders, Kaseya- 'The Entrepreneurial CMO'

Michael Sanders - Kaseya  00:00

Don't do it for the ego because it's a waste of money if you do.

Ben Kaplan  00:03

This is the podcast where we go around the globe to interview marketing leaders from the world's biggest brands, fastest growing companies and most disruptive startups.

Ben Kaplan  00:18

This is TOP CMO with me, Ben Kaplan. today I'm chatting with Mike Sanders CMO at Kaseya, a company that specializes in IT management software for small to midsize businesses and managed service providers. Mike's past has been marked by a series of strategic moves, including a stint away from Kaseya to develop his own venture syneresis, which was later acquired by Kaseya, bring him back into the fold. His entrepreneurial chapter was center system and network monitoring solution. And his time as general manager at unit trends have both contributed to his comprehensive view of the IT sector. So how does his entrepreneurial background inform his current strategies? And what insights from his journey does he bring to the table in a competitive tech landscape? Let's find out with Mike Sanders. Mike, one of the things that's interesting that we've discussed before about your role, and how marketing works at Kaseya, is your focus on marketing to existing customers, and really trying to expand your business with existing customers, which is similar to how traditionally, like, let's say, a financial services company would market right? It's like, okay, we have them for bank account, now we're going to offer a credit card, or we're going to offer a retirement plan, and we're gonna offer all of these other services. So why has that been a focus of your marketing? And how does that come to life with your existing customer base?

Michael Sanders - Kaseya  01:41

I think there's, for us a kind of this design that we started probably about six years ago, where we recognize that in our client base, we have primarily multifunction IT professionals. So you know, if you think about it, if you were working in network monitoring for Citibank, there might be you know, a few 100 people that just do network monitoring, and that's all they do, and they wear one hat, and they show up, you know, to work. And that's, you know, something that really deep in for us what we what we started to recognize from the original kind of Kaseya base, let's say, that got built up prior to six, seven years ago, they were primarily managed service providers. So it companies that were that providing outsourced it, or SMB, with internal IT departments utilizing our products. And what we found between both of those is that they they wear a ton of hats, they're not like the, you know, the network monitoring folks at at a city bank or a large enterprise like that. And we noticed there was a gap in the market that there's, you know, software companies don't really focus on that type of user. And so we wanted to build a platform that, you know, really spoke to that particular group of users. And we did that with something we call it complete. And so by having now 38, modules have it complete that can, you know, more or less be consumed across the board by every single one of our existing customers, it's a, it's a huge thing for us to really focus on. And we drive not only a lot of marketing that way, but we also do a lot of development along that as well, with the integrations and the workflow automations that we do across all of our different modules.

Ben Kaplan  03:17

And so how do you think about then marketing to your existing customer base? I mean, do you look and say, Okay, there's 38 modules, here's my customers that have five, here's my customers that have 10, here's the ones that have 20? And is there some systematic way you go through it? Or here's another approach, which is, you might say, okay, these are our most critical modules, because if people get these ones, it's really like, you know, a gateway into other things, right? Because once they have these, they're gonna want the other types of, you know, bells and whistles that we can provide. That's another way. Another way might be, let's focus on our customers to have the most modules if they're already at 20, or 30, let's say right, like, Let's get them all the way to 38. Because they are true believers, we just didn't get them all the way through. So how do you approach your marketing given that internal focus?

Michael Sanders - Kaseya  04:02

Yeah, it's a, it's a great question. It's actually none of those really. And it's, and it's something that we're pretty proud of here. Because we have, you know, it's such a broad portfolio of of different products that fit this market, we can step in front of eight and demand. So rather than trying to force a customer to buy a particular product for a strategic reason, or trying to force adoption of certain modules or things like that, we have a very large account management group that builds a very strong relationship with the customers, we try and keep it around 30 or fewer accounts, per account manager and they learn our clients business. And through that process, we're able to really listen to them and say, what's, what is the next project what is the thing that you are most focused on right now we can work with our partners on those things specifically, we do the same through kind of a digital demand gen proc program, through customer marketing where we're constantly doing webinars are free Product Updates are different things that we can get people to express a desire to learn more about a particular module in our stack. So, you know, if we do something on a, you know, one of our products like our IT documentation product, which is it glue during that there may be a showcase on an integration with our remote management solution or RMM. And if somebody is watching that, they can say, hey, you know, I want to learn more about that, and their account manager will reach out with a with a specialist and talk to about that particular module and that particular solution for that particular problem. So it's, it's kind of nice, because we don't have to kind of go figure out how to drive a particular module adoption, you know, in those cases,

Ben Kaplan  05:42

and how does this strategy fit in with something that's really splashy that has been in the news, which is the naming rights to Miami Heat arena, which is now the Kaseya Center in South Florida, that was suddenly available company that had a little bit of some issues. FTX was the prior naming company, and suddenly that was gone. And so you jumped in, take us through how you even became involved in that what the thinking was that maybe I don't know, if you had tried to do this before naming rights? Or if this was a new thing, how that fits into customer's overall strategy?

Michael Sanders - Kaseya  06:15

Yeah, no, we had never looked at that before, at least not to my knowledge, it was really one of those serendipitous things where if it wasn't Miami, if it wasn't the timing, if it wasn't the particular use case, let's say, I don't think it ever would have happened. You know, it was one of those things where we were having conversations internally about, you know, what was going on with FTX, just because it was a topic that was ripping headlines,

Ben Kaplan  06:41

and no one could believe it. And here it is, it's smack dab in the middle Miami, you got an arena named after FTX. And the company has collapsed,

Michael Sanders - Kaseya  06:46

right. And, you know, they just gotten an office here, which was big in the news, right before all of this and, and everything else. So it was it was a very Miami kind of centric topic. And, and I was driving into work. And we were both talking about to one of my colleagues here, Lewis came to us and he was, you know, taking me through the whole story. And I got here, I was like, You know what, we have to do this, we have to pick this up. We are a Miami love, you know, headquartered company. So we're global, we have offices all over, but our heart in our DNA is very much centered in Miami. And so as a result, you know, for us, the the cassia center opportunity was something that not only gave us the ability to do something that helped us with recruiting and things like that in the local in the local area. But more importantly, it gave us the chance to give back to the community quite a bit as well. So we were able to, you know, through the process of the naming rights, give back about $83 million to anti gun violence and prosperity initiatives here in the Miami County market. So for us, it was it was kind of twofold. There's there's certainly an opportunity for us to, you know, to build our brand, and I think validate kind of the size of the company, which you know, I think naming rights have an awesome ability to do do

Ben Kaplan  08:00

right, you gotta be a pretty big company. If, if we're the Miami Heat play is named after you. Yeah, exactly.

Michael Sanders - Kaseya  08:05

But on top of it, you know, it's not totally altruistic, we recruit from here, we want to hire 3000 more people here over the next few years. And we've got, you know, deals in place with the county to really help us and with the city to to help us foster that through different programs, and making the community a better place and helping the community be safer, better, create more jobs, the rest of it, it helps us it's easier for us to attract talent here. That's that's native talent that grew up here. But it also helps us convince people to move here.

Ben Kaplan  08:35

What is the negotiation process like to get to, you know, your final number? And I think it was 100 $17 million deal over 17 years? How was that negotiate? What was that? Like, if you're new to this level of branding? And how did you? Or did you need to think of like, how do we make this ROI pencil out for us?

Michael Sanders - Kaseya  08:52

Yeah, I think the ROI side for us was probably, I think, for us, it was pretty apparent, just the recruiting impact for us in the local market, and our ability to leverage it with our customers and allow them to leverage it,

Ben Kaplan  09:04

okay, so meaning you can bring in customers to watch a game or something else that they yearly and letting them invite their customers in to bring this in, there will be value for you.

Michael Sanders - Kaseya  09:13

And we hold events there, we do all sorts of things, we're going to have, you know, Datto con here in Miami, which is a major event for us where we'll have 1000s or customers, we're going to do an event there. So we'll we'll be able to get use from you know, a very tactical side for it. We obviously have the longer, you know, longer play of a powered by Kaseya initiative that will help us you know, really drive that brand recognition in the actual end customer space for us, which gives them better brand recognition as well through that. So really, that's that's going to take more time to build out and kind of get to the other thing for us though. We've had I think 41% more applicants coming to us since we did it. I have I've had people in Australia reach out that were there. They love an underdog, I was told and they were following me see in the finals as they made that, you know, awesome finals run at the end of last season. And another thing that's happened that's been really interesting is seeing people here who I've known either personally or professionally for years coming to us and saying, hey, I want to come work there. They've known about us forever. But it just made us I think, much more real, it really validated who we were, I mean, if you look at kind of the size of the company, we have nearly 5000 employees. And unless you were in the managed services, space, or internal internal IT space, you probably never heard of us. And so this was a huge needle mover from that side as well. People want to go work somewhere where they they know the name, where there's brand recognition, the podcast

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Ben Kaplan  11:43

was it like to negotiate that deal and also negotiate it, you imagine after FTX, they're gonna be a little bit more conservative and make sure the company is not going to have a ft x like event if it's being associated with the arena. Yeah,

Michael Sanders - Kaseya  11:57

I mean, I think it's fortunate that we've been around for for as long as we have, you know, we've been here for for 20 some odd years, we've been in Miami for ever, I remember when we opened the office here in 2004, maybe even 2003, but I think it was 2004. And it's, we're not a fly by night, we're not a you know, something that sprung up very quickly and can disappear very quickly. You know, and we've got real financials and real revenues. And, you know, we've been a company that that I think has just has that longevity, that that made everybody feel very comfortable. I also think that the fact that we are Miami company helped us tremendously. And the fact that we employ so many people here, if you think about it, you know, the real hurdle is getting through more of the county than the than the rest of it. And we bleed Miami. So for us, it was, you know, it was something that I think they got a chance to kind of see that from us. And it was something that helped make that whole process easier,

Ben Kaplan  12:50

how long from start to finish from the moment, you're like, hey, we're interested in this, and you contact them to be like, deal with sorry, how long did that take,

Michael Sanders - Kaseya  12:56

it was only a few months to get kind of the majority of it done. And I was very fortunate in this whole process, because I came up with the initial idea. And then you know, a very capable team of others took it from there and did all the hard work. So I got, you know, in this particular case, I got to have have the idea and not have to do any of the day to day negotiations and all the stuff that had to go through around legal contracting, all of those things. So that team put in a tremendous amount of time, and we got this done very quickly. But if you think about it, there was there was a pretty large impetus for not only the heat, but also the county to to get, you know, the name changed was something that, you know, they thought often that you have something happen where where you really want to have move on from a name, it's not

Ben Kaplan  13:44

even just the fact that maybe their future revenues from naming rights is no longer there. But it's just you just don't want the association. Exactly.

Michael Sanders - Kaseya  13:51

And I think that gave us kind of a common goal. We were able to do it without you know, brokers and by really just adopting the existing structure that was there from the original FTX deal. And that allowed us to do it very quickly. And it allowed us to give more money to the county as a result of it because they weren't all the fees and everything else that would have gone with with a full process of going back through everything because the deal structure was already there, it was very easy to kind of take down it also allowed them to keep things like the the trust fund that they had set up for the the anti gun violence and the rest of it in place because it allowed continuity. So there were a lot of positives to doing it the way that we did it. But mostly it just lacked more money for the county to go and you know, really do great things with

Ben Kaplan  14:37

this is not your first stint at Kaseya you were with the company before helping run the sales organization, then you left the company then that company that you left for which which I think you helped create was acquired. So you came back what is it like to be at your second stint? What is that like for those who are at a place and leave and your advice for how to make that work?

Michael Sanders - Kaseya  14:56

It's actually a very strange story I came to say originally through an acquisition back in oh three. And I was here for about 10 years, we actually got acquired by InSite. And I left about a year and a half after that acquisition. So I was here for a little bit post acquisition. And I left and I really wanted to go kind of start my own thing and build a another, another company in the in the MSP space, you know, I am an entrepreneur, entrepreneur by heart, or I, you know, it's just something that I've done multiple times now in my career. And when I went and started the company after, after, you know, after leaving Kaseya, I did that for a little bit of time, and one day got a call from, from Fred Buccola, who's the current CEO of Kaseya. And we started talking about him acquiring that company. So I ended up getting acquired twice by the same company. And the most surreal part of it, I think, for me was when I came back, I ended up in the exact same office that I was in when I left originally. So that was made, you know, really strange, or was even stranger, but because nothing was the same. Nothing, it was unbelievable, the entire exec team was different. You know, there were some people that that were still here from my original staff, but primarily, everybody was new. So it felt super comfortable, because I came back and I knew the product. And I knew, you know, I knew the space and I knew all these different things. But it was totally different 180 degrees from from what I what I left, so it was a pretty unique thing. I don't know that a lot of people get to do that in their careers. And

Ben Kaplan  16:27

with the all new cast of characters did you have to kind of restart and rebuild relationships and go on a listening tour and do all of that? Or did you feel like you didn't have to go through all that because you had more knowledge, how was it perceived? Was it easy to form teams and alliances and get things done,

Michael Sanders - Kaseya  16:42

I had the the product knowledge and the market knowledge. So I had at least a little bit of credibility coming in. Because they there was not a lot of change as far as the market was concerned. And not a lot of changed, you know, around how companies were utilizing the technology. So those things were the same. What had changed, that took a lot of listening from my side, a lot of learning from my side was the scale at which the company was was building no at and running at the when you're part of a startup that starts off at, you know, let's say, a little bit above zero, and you build it up to, you know, 10 million, 100 million, whatever it is, it's a certain skill set, it's a certain type of process that the company follows, there's you know, there's, there's certain things that you do at that type of size and scale, that are totally different, as you start to grow. Beyond that, you know, when I left, because they I think at the absolute height, it was probably 340 350 people. So to come back to an organization that was, you know, surpassing 1000, and growing to, you know, on on track to grow to 5000, as quickly as as, it's just a very different experience. So I spent a lot of time at the beginning, learning the things that I didn't know how to do from the first one, being entrepreneurial being part of small companies being part of that that group that grows a company from zero to, you know, 10 million, or zero to 100 million, whatever it ends up being. That's been my core skill set for my entire career. So coming back here, I had to learn an entirely new skill set around how to do the things that allow you to go beyond that 350 person company and become a company the size that we are today.

Ben Kaplan  18:28

And what is the biggest difference would you say in how you approach marketing and marketing teams a difference size and scale? What is something that you do now that you wouldn't do before or something that you don't do now that you used to do before?

Michael Sanders - Kaseya  18:41

The main thing, I think that I think the biggest difference that I've that I've found over the past five or six years is when you're part of a smaller team, things are moving really quickly. But you can still reach out and touch everybody around you. You can do a lot of things with gut feel a lot of things like you get a sense for what's working and what's not working at scale, certainly at the scale that we are and with the number of just modules, you know, if you want to think of them as products, we refer to them as modules because for us, it's part of our platform, but but if you thought about it, you know, from a product perspective, we're marketing 38 different products. That is not something that you can reach out and touch it's not something that you can do by gut feel. So where you can do the smaller organizations with instinct and and really kind of just muscle through it. This requires a lot more diligence around metrics, KPIs, daily adherence to whether we had a good day or a bad day, and really understanding what that looks like at you know, at a scale of 38 different modules. And that that's just totally different. And it's probably something that is you had talked to talk to me in my first and especially earlier in my first and before I saw the impact of growing to a certain size and and struggling to scale beyond that, as a company, I would have been like that's, that doesn't work. That's crazy. That's not how sales and marketing works. You don't you know, it's not all about KPIs and metrics and things like that. So for me at least, it was a pretty big shift and something that I had to learn from the ground up my team back.

Tom Cain  20:20

Okay, so here's what I'm thinking. It's a Western. But with a sci fi twist. But there's also a film noir plot running in the background. And dinosaurs because why not right? Take the dinosaurs down a little bit. Okay, no dinosaurs. But a little bit of romance is always welcome.

Tom Cain  20:56

Some bees, yeah, we had to throw some zombies in there. Your vision, our craft? I don't know. Can I listen to the first draft? Again, back to the show.

Ben Kaplan  21:12

During your first stint at Kaseya, you were managing sales teams? How does understanding sales impacting now in a CMO role? And how does that influence how you approach it?

Michael Sanders - Kaseya  21:22

Two things to that one, I think every CMO should have some experience in sales. Because there's too often a lot of finger pointing between the two groups between marketing and sales sales

Ben Kaplan  21:32

teams as market has given me bad leads or not enough leads. A marketing team says sales team couldn't close a good lead to save their life.

Michael Sanders - Kaseya  21:38

Yeah, exactly. And so you know, you that that's the the age old kind of back and forth that you get between between those two groups, and I think coming from from a very sales, so this background, you know, not only can you say, hey, that's BS, for lack of a better term, you know, you really go to market thinking about what you can create for a sales organization, more so than what's neat, or what's cool, or what, you know, looks good on a on a spreadsheet, or, you know, what is fun to do. And so, you know, for me, it's helped me really focus in on what are the really specific things that we need to do to help our sales teams make as many positive sales as possible, whether it's internal, you know, to existing customers, or whether it's going out and getting additional logos, it really keeps me kind of focused in on that. And one of the things that we've done here with this role is I've kept parts of the sales organization as as part of the role as well. And that really keeps everything honest. Because you know, it's just one of those things where I get to see the results of the campaigns that we create, and that we run through the sales teams, it still report into my org. And so it really kind of allows me to tailor what we're doing as a marketing organization to ensure that we're never saying, Hey, we created a million MQL. So we're great sales, you figure it out, it really drives that kind of tie in between the two groups.

Ben Kaplan  23:04

What should marketing professionals understand about their sales colleagues that would just help them work a little better and collaborate a little better? And what do any sales professionals or what do they need to understand about marketers just to make their jobs and their ability to kind of influence change in their organization a little bit easier?

Michael Sanders - Kaseya  23:25

I think the main thing is that both jobs aren't as easy as the other one thinks. Right? I think that's the big part of it. You know, I think there's a lot of folks in marketing who feel like sales is, you know, just chat on the phone. And it's, you know, it's an easy thing. And I certainly think there's a sentiment in the sales community as well, that, you know, marketing sends over these things, and they shouldn't really be considered leads, and I can't, you know, I can't believe I have to follow up on these. And, you know, they're not worth calling eight times to, you know, there's definitely I think, too often, at least in my past experiences, I think both sides are too quick to not really understand the skill and kind of the the level of effort that both teams put in. But I also think from a marketing perspective, one of the things that you can really do sales is such a, you know, such an easy quantitative thing, you can see it, right, you make the number you don't make the number, your conversion rates are great, or they're not great. You know, it's very easy to see that lead quality, and the efficacy of PR campaigns or longer term things, it's a little bit more difficult on the marketing side. And I think that really good marketing groups are great at being able to show the value of what they're producing without trying to sell it, if that makes sense. You know, look for what's wrong and be honest and earnest about it and partner with sales on it. But also, there's a way to show the value of what you're doing, and make sure that it's something that is clear that it's metric that it's tracked every day and that one side can't win without the other that there's no there's no thought to one side, you know, gets it done and the other side doesn't get it done that just doesn't exist that way. We're

Ben Kaplan  25:00

a team, we're in this together. And really we're only successful individually, if we're successful as a group.

Michael Sanders - Kaseya  25:06

Absolutely, absolutely. And I think that gets lost. And I don't know how it gets lost, because it seems like such a simple thing. But it really does seem to be the the number one thing that I hear from, you know, other people that run sales teams that I've that I've interfaced with over over my career is, in a lot of them. There's just a lot of that back and forth between the two groups. And

Ben Kaplan  25:25

finally, to wrap up, Mike, what is your advice for other companies that are looking to make a big brand awareness move, like a Miami Heat naming that just whether they should do it? At what phase? Does it make sense? How do you approach that A, it could be like something like naming an arena, but it could be something else? Like there's companies that are like, Oh, do we actually do that Super Bowl spots? Or, Oh, do we try to do something on a bigger scale, we're gonna have our first celebrity endorsements, and we're gonna, you know, and that's going to be expensive, and it's going to be involved, what is your advice for those who kind of want to change the perception to a little bit beyond maybe where your awareness or where your perception is now to get people think about you in a different way,

Michael Sanders - Kaseya  26:08

the big parts for me is one, don't do it for ego, because it's a waste of money. If you do, that's probably one of the things that, you know, for us, we wanted to make sure that whatever we did with it wasn't so that the exec team to go get floor seats at at a heat game, like we wanted it to be about the customer. It's the same challenge that I give in every other way, when you do a deal like this, of course, every sports team and race team and all these different things, they reach out, and they want you to, you know, to look at other opportunities to sponsorships and the things that we push back every single time or at least that we've structured around those conversations is show us how we can help us help our clients. How is how is it something that we can go back and show our clients, hey, this is a positive for you, there's something in here that helps you as a result of us doing something like this. So if we can do co branded opportunities, where we're able to highlight customers, and give them access to branding opportunities, and things like that, that they wouldn't have the Reach for on their own. Those are things that I think are more exciting, you know, for us longer term. The other thing is have a plan, right? It's a, it's a really easy thing to waste a whole bunch of money by signing up for something like a stadium naming right, and then not having a way to drive the value from it that you really want to be able to drive. So I think that that is something that probably the scariest part for me, professionally, as we went through this, like, alright, let's make sure that we're getting as much value from this as we possibly can. So maybe

Ben Kaplan  27:42

actually signing the deal is like the starting point, not the end. It's like, oh, we've got Okay, great, we have the name, it's gonna be up there. No, we actually need now significant plans to drive value. And really, it's our job to do that. Because our partners at the city or county, it's not their job to figure out how to drive value for us. So we've got to figure out how we're going to drive value. Yeah, it's

Michael Sanders - Kaseya  28:02

100% on you to figure that out, and to drive that value. And that's, that's a great way of putting it up. It's not something that that comes with part of the deal. It's something that you have to figure out pride yourself.

Ben Kaplan  28:12

And it makes sense that you're a managed services company, which means you're a client services focused company, whatever you're doing, it makes sense to think about it through the lens of what type of company you are, what kind of ethos in this case, you're talking about, you know, what does it do to drive value for my clients? There are other companies, whatever they might, if there are technology driven companies, branding driven companies, it's all about that. So for these bigger things, what is it going to do to drive the essence of who you are is not a bad framework for thinking about what is the value create, like, what does it do to drive really who we fundamentally are? And to do we have a plan to utilize it, because what we're getting as a platform, not marketing plan in the box, we've still got to develop that plan. That's exactly it. Mike, thank you so much for joining us on the TOP CMO. Interesting to see you've been acquired a couple of times now. We'll see what happens in your career. But you're a great spot at a company that's growing that certainly has made an impression in South Florida and beyond. So we look forward to watching you for continued success. Absolutely.

Michael Sanders - Kaseya  29:09

And I plan on being here for a while. So I don't think there's there's going to be a lot of deviation in my career for a while here. Because, you know, it's it's a little bit of unfinished business for me with SEO overall. And I'm really looking forward to what we're gonna be able to do over the next few years here.

Ben Kaplan  29:25

And those floor seats for the heat games are pretty good also. So

Michael Sanders - Kaseya  29:29

like I said, if we don't have clients sitting in the front of the game, we're doing something wrong. Okay, we won't we won't be down there too often.

Ben Kaplan  29:36

Okay. All right. Thanks so much, Mike. Take care. Thanks so much.

Tom Cain  29:42

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