AiThority Interview with Chris Kozup, CMO at Aruba Networks (a Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company)
Hi Chris, please tell us about your role and the journey at HPE Aruba.
I have the honor of serving as the Chief Marketing Officer at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company. I have been in this role for close to a year. This is my second time at Aruba as I had originally started with the company in 2011 and was initially responsible for Marketing across Europe, Middle East and Africa. In my current role, I oversee the strategy and execution of Aruba’s integrated marketing and enablement functions with an explicit focus on building the Aruba brand promise and driving customer demand for Aruba’s extensive portfolio of industry-leading Networking and Security offerings.
You are one of the leading CMOs in the Networking industry. What is the most daunting challenge for a CMO in this industry compared to others in say Retail b2c, or closer home — Cloud and IT infrastructure?
Every decade or so, the Networking industry goes through a period of transformation based on many macro technology trends.
We are emerging out of a decade focused on Mobility and Cloud and heading into an era that we believe will be defined by the immense amounts of data that emerge from the digitization of things (think IoT). Unlike the previous decade where data was centralized in the Cloud, the next decade will be about data being distributed at the Edge (as in offices, hospitals, stores, manufacturing plants, etc.).
The promise of this data is that businesses can analyze it to gain insights that could open new revenue streams or generate operational efficiencies. We believe the global pandemic will only serve to accelerate this trend as businesses are forced to rethink business models to adapt more rapidly to a changing environment.
Given this macro change in our industry, I consider my biggest challenge to be educating our customers and partners on how they can thrive in this new decade and specifically how Aruba can help them get there. Given we are at the start of this market transition, the marketing work we’re doing is focused on category creation, including a clear articulation and demonstration of how these emerging technologies can benefit customers and ultimately how Aruba is the trusted partner to get them there.
Tell us about the various formats of content you prefer for promoting your brands and customer success stories?
Our view is that the best content speaks directly to the challenges our customers are facing and is delivered in an easily consumable format. As such, we have been focusing our content development efforts on digital content in the form of videos, infographics, web-based content and short-form ‘snackable’ written pieces of content (e.g. blogs, opinion pieces, contributed articles) that can be easily shared by our customers and partners.
How have marketing tactics evolved in the last 3-4 years? How do you measure the success of these content marketing tactics at Aruba?
Great marketing execution continues to be about reaching the customer in unique and compelling ways with a message that speaks directly to their needs. This was true five years ago and is still true today. It also continues to be true that marketers must always consider a mix of activities to reach the buyer – especially given the buyer persona may evolve and change as they progress through the decision-making process. Today, we are focused on using digital as the primary method for engaging with customers and ensuring that there is very tight alignment between Sales and Marketing.
During a global pandemic, Marketing can play a leadership role in helping the sales process transform into a digital engagement model. While this approach has certainly existed in the B2C market, most B2B sellers – especially those in IT – are very accustomed to face-to-face interaction with customers, which is not always feasible given the current environment. As a result, we’re focused on arming our sales organization with the digital insights and tools they need to engage with customers effectively.
COVID-19 has negatively impacted every aspect of our lives. Yet, the technology industry, especially SD-WAN and ancillary digital platforms, have shown a path to mitigate the pandemic crisis. Could you tell us how you are involved in this pandemic crisis management at Aruba?
At Aruba, like most companies, we have been taking a proactive approach to navigating this pandemic.
Our top priority has been to ensure the safety and health of our employees. As a company, we build the technology to help customers deliver on their business continuity plans, especially when it comes to secure remote working for all employees.
We also provide networking solutions that leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to help businesses bring employees back to the office in a safe way. These solutions leverage advanced location awareness to provide employee density, proximity and contact tracing solutions. At this point, a key priority area is helping customers get the information they need to leverage their security and networking solutions to manage through this crisis.
Within Aruba, my focus is on setting a clear strategy and direction to ensure that every team member understands what the priorities are and how they support them. It’s also been very important to invest in the human touch with the entire employee base at a time where people can’t be physically together.
As such, I spend a lot of my day using video collaboration tools to connect with my team members in an effort to continue to foster the great workplace culture that our employees have come to love.
What is the Future of Marketing in the post-COVID era?
I believe the impact of COVID-19 for marketers will be to accelerate the digital transformation that most marketing teams have already begun.
While digital will continue to be the dominant execution method for marketing for the foreseeable future, I also believe there will be a desire to get back to physical engagement when it’s safe to do so. To this end, my view is that the best marketers will figure out a way to integrate the best of both physical and digital engagement models that puts the customers’ needs front and center.
Which tools and technologies is Aruba using for Marketing, Sales and Communications?
At Aruba, we use a wealth of systems and tools for our execution. These include Marketing Automation and Customer Relationship Management tools as well as the gamut of content, social and web-based tools to allow us to reach our audiences in effective ways. Lately, we’ve been seeing great results from our intent-based marketing tools that allow us to understand our customers’ needs in greater detail. We can then fine-tune our Marketing efforts to ensure that our messages are resonating with those audiences.
To what extent has networking technology helped your customers overcome the challenges brought on by COVID-19? How are you using technology to keep your teams connected and motivated?
Aruba delivers Networking Technologies that allow our customers to keep their business operations going – even during a global pandemic.
We’ve been a leader in secure remote working solutions that extend the office experience into the home while allowing the IT department complete visibility and control. We are also a leader in location-based networking technologies that are proving extremely important as businesses are looking to manage employee density and distancing as they look to reopen their offices.
Of course, connectivity is the foundation for collaboration and Aruba ESP (Edge Services Platform) provides the intelligence to ensure the highest levels of application performance – especially for voice and video applications used for team collaboration.
Hear it from the pro – What is the most contemporary customer experience trend that every CMO should master?
At Aruba, we operate with the mindset of “Customer First, Customer Last.”
Every experience we deliver starts with a clear understanding of the customer and their needs and challenges. At a time when everything has gone virtual, we work hard to tailor our outreach and communications to each customer in a very personalized way. This ultimately shows the customer you care about them and demonstrates a mindset that is focused on putting their needs first.
What would be your one piece of advice to every young Marketing professional?
My advice to anyone looking to build a career in marketing is to focus on becoming a subject matter expert in the domain in which they are focused. Those who can truly master the specifics of the product, customer needs and the market will be in the winning position when it comes to developing a solid marketing strategy.
While it’s great to be an expert in specific aspects of Marketing (e.g. digital, events, web, etc.), you could also start by being an expert in the technology domains and parlay that into great program development.
You’ll find your skills and knowledge to be in high demand.
Thank you, Chris! That was fun and we hope to see you back on AiThority.com soon.
Chris Kozup is the Chief Marketing Officer at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, with 15 years of experience leading marketing teams and more than two decades of leadership in the technology industry overall.
Kozup began his career as an industry analyst and is well recognized today for his marketing and industry experience within the mobility, networking and security sectors.
Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, is a leading provider of next-generation network access solutions for the mobile enterprise. The company designs and delivers Mobility-Defined Networks that empower IT departments and #GenMobile, a new generation of tech-savvy users who rely on their mobile devices for every aspect of work and personal communication. To create a mobility experience that #GenMobile and IT can rely upon, Aruba Mobility-Defined Networks™ automate infrastructure-wide performance optimization and trigger security actions that used to require manual IT intervention. The results are dramatically improved productivity and lower operational costs