Street Culture: AvePoint CMO on Continuous Learning and Making the Sale

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AvePoint, a Jersey City-based tech company that helps migrate, manage, and protect Office 365 data, has a classic two-people-in-a-garage backstory. The founders, Tianyi Jiang and Kai Gong, built their first product in a local public library, and the company has now grown to about 1,500 employees.

Dux Raymond Sy, the company’s CMO, says the huge team closely adheres to a set of core values.

“It’s really about how we’re very agile and passionate in working closely together as a team,” Sy says. “We live and breathe those core values, and my leadership style—I think about my team as my peers. While I do certain things really well, my colleagues do a far better job with specialized marketing skill sets.”

Agility, passion, and teamwork are three core values that AvePoint strings together by activating the “teamwork” component.

“We all have our own expertise,” he says. “I tell everyone, ‘Look, just go try something.’ We won’t know if it will work or not, and one of our core guidelines around that is if you think you’re doing something that is not going to help, don’t do it. I empower my team to go out and try things, and if they fail, it’s OK.”

While the core values are not very different from many startup-style, culture-focused organizations, and agility is now practically a staple of technology development, Sy has his own experience and education that leads him in a more focused direction: making the sale.

Though his department is marketing, Sy has his employees work closely with the sales team.

“This might not be common, but in marketing, I’m pushing everyone to focus on sales. Coming from a sales background, every time I work with a marketing organization, I see how it’s hard to measure marketing; people say that you can’t put a number on marketing. I don’t agree,” he says.

If the marketing arm of a company can successfully drive conversions on social by simply dropping a post on LinkedIn or sending a tweet, the goal is not just getting people to click on it—though that is a main indicator of success. The AvePoint team has metrics on conversions and lead generation for both new and existing customers.

“We also want them to go to the website, download a trial, and buy a product,” Sy says. “We want to make sure our existing customers really adopt our technology, or even better, buy more from us. We’ve seen what happened to AOL, Netscape, so in my team in marketing, everyone is up to speed on how we’re doing in sales.”

He pushes his employees to work on continuous learning, partially due to his own experience learning one thing after another, a path that has led him to his current success. Sy has a degree in electrical engineering. “I’m actually a programmer,” he says.

As a developer in the late 1990s, he realized he didn’t like sitting with a computer all day, not talking to people. He co-founded a services company to support companies using Microsoft technology and learned sales, marketing, and all the different facets of running a business. His own history working to build a brand and his technical knowledge of AvePoint’s products now combine to drive his leadership style and to recognize the tech industry’s needs.

“The trend is changing,” he says. “There’s a lot of great technology but not a lot of guidance on how to take advantage of that tech in a practical sense. One of the key things we did was really own that thought leadership not just around AvePoint products but really around the broad digital transition, collaborating with Microsoft technology, and then how AvePoint can help.”

Two years ago, the AvePoint marketing team did this for the 2017 launch of Microsoft Teams, then labeled a “Slack killer.”

Does anyone use Teams now?

Regardless, Sy saw an opportunity in the void that lay directly after the Teams launch. What was Teams? How do you use it?

“I thought, well, we want to win this conversation,” he says. “When someone searches for it, we should pop up. We want to be the first out there, position ourselves to people as, ‘Wow, these guys know their stuff’.”

Knowing the base level of information to provide is a first step to achieving the sale, and while some on-the-job learning is usually needed, Sy’s lesson in leadership is closely related to his success in general: education.

“Here’s the analogy I use: I would tell my colleagues, if you’re selling a Honda car—if you’re a Honda technician or a sales person or a marketer—you’re going to know everything about your product,” he says. “But it’s equally important to know who the industry players are, who the people are. Spend a weekend playing with other people’s technology.”

April Nowicki is a staff writer at Street Fight.