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234: Marketing in the Cloud with NetApp CMO James Whitemore

James Whitemore, CMO at NetApp

On this 234th episode of “Marketing Today,” host Alan Hart speaks with the CMO of NetApp, James Whitemore. Over the last six years, NetApp has made the switch from a traditional data-storage company to a cloud-based storage company, and Whitemore is here to talk all about it.

We start our conversation off with Whitemore’s childhood in the U.K. and how an affinity for toying with technology sparked an early interest in the field. Whitemore then outlines his professional journey, starting as a salesman for a mobile phone company in the U.K., which led him to work for big tech in the data storage field in the U.S.  Whitemore made the switch to the startup industry and that eventually led him to NetApp. NetApp has been “managing large-scale data storage” for over 30 years in countries all over the world. We then dive into the recent shift into large-scale cloud data storage and how that has affected NetApp’s sales and marketing processes.

Whitemore’s background in sales helped him make the shift, staying true to the guiding question, “what’s the selling experience got to look like for that client?” He has found that there is no cookie-cutter process, and the clients must “pick their own journey.” Whitemore then touches on how the shift in technology has forced a change in employee demographics, stating that “we had a lot of people who understand how to use the technology…but if you don’t have people that really know how to put it to work,” then you’re stuck. In a world that is navigating chaos, NetApp is trying to “redefine what enterprise-class cloud storage services should look like!”

Highlights from this week’s “Marketing Today”:

  • James grew up in and around technology, knowing that he wanted to work in tech from a young age. 1:02
  • After University in the UK, James began his career selling mobile phones before moving to Colorado to join the storage industry. 1:31
  • James became tired of big tech and made the switch over to helping bring startups off the ground. 2:45
  • NetApp has been managing large-scale data environments for over 30 years for companies all over the world. 3:21
  • Over the last 5 or 6 years, NetApp has switched from storing data in large data centers to storing data in clouds, making data movement much easier. 4:21
  • NetApp has had to reinvent the company to serve both the data center and cloud audiences. 5:56
  • The entire sales process has changed because the demographics of those sold to has changed with the cloud. 7:01
  • Sales cycles have been very predictable for the most part until cloud selling reared its head. 8:26
  • James’s background in sales has made the switch over to cloud sales smoother. 10:36
  • NetApp has had to throw away the classic qualification process, essentially allowing clients to choose their own journey. 12:50
  • Marketing organization, funding models, and metrics have had to shift after 20+ years of traditional infrastructure. 13:28
  • Many services that had traditionally been outsourced had to be brought in-house because they are core to what NetApp does. 14:24
  • It’s taken over three years for the company’s demographics to change following the shift in technology. 16:23
  • The revenue-marketing team is working towards shifting the company mentality from lead generation to revenue generation. 17:37
  • NetApp’s ability to help its customers transform their companies has skyrocketed with the shift in technology and people. 18:54
  • New interest and new buyers are coming in at an incredible rate for a 30-year-old company. 20:16
  • NetApp knows where to look for their customers and what information those people need to hear. 21:10
  • I. bots have become an essential part of the selling process by acquiring information from potential customers. 22:14
  • James is on a mission to redefine cloud storage services to one of convenience for the users. 22:57
  • The marketing team focuses on what their audience is going through during the global pandemic to meet their needs. 24:18
  • While consumers are dealing with the chaos of the world, NetApp makes sure to take care of its employees while they deal with the same troubles. 25:30
  • James’s dyslexia forced him to go through an extra level of work to get through school, but this made him resilient to the world’s tough realities. 27:55
  • Learning difficulties do not equate to stupidity but should be seen as an opportunity to confidently navigate obstacles. 29:52
  • Dolly Parton’s foundation works to make literature accessible to children around the world, and that cause resonates with NetApp. 32:46
  • James was on the Peloton train very early and admires how it has created a community on its platform. 33:45
  • B2B and B2C are the same, presenting both challenges and opportunities. 34:46

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